Scandal as Paul convicted (23 Aug 2011) of racially aggravated conduct for defacing an Israeli flag.

Sheriff Charles MacNair: "Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist." "It was malice and ill will because of his presumed membership of Israel."

Paul, an active anti-racist, is deteremined to fight on and will appeal this travesty of justice.

Fuller reports of the case here; and with more analysis here
SPSC statement here

Scroll down to add yourself or your organisation to the signatories of the open letter.

Israel critics face "racism" charge:
Open letter:

Two students at St. Andrews University are facing racially aggravated conduct charges after allegedly making comments and gestures critical of the State of Israel and its flag. They appeared at Cupar Sheriff Court on 11 May 2011 and trial was fixed for Monday 22 August.

Media reports have already jumped to the conclusion that the charges are designed to imply: "St Andrews University students in court to face anti-Semitism charges" (Tayside and Fife's Courier newspaper).

'Anti-Semite' burns Israeli flag

According to one of the students, Paul Donnachie, "whilst in the room [student dorm] of an individual who I considered a friend, Chanan Reitblat, I placed my hands down the front of my jeans and onto an Israeli flag which belonged to him, accompanied by comments to the effect that Israel is a terrorist state, and is guilty for many civilian deaths. The action was not malicious, however, it sparked a great deal of political debate amongst our group of friends within our Hall of Residence, whereby the nature of the State of Israel was discussed."

However, the following day, after hearing that Chanan had been upset by his actions, Paul "wrote a letter stating that, whilst I would not apologise for my opposition to the actions of the Israeli state, I would apologise for the manner in which I chose to mediate my political opinions on this occasion."

One version of the Israeli flagLater that night, "two Police officers arrived at my University Hall of residence, and detained myself and a friend of mine; that night we were both arrested under Section 38 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act (2010), that is, 'threatening and abusive behaviour'. We were kept in police custody for 36 hours, before appearing at Cupar Sheriff Court. "

By the time the pair appeared at an intermediate diet, the charge had been changed to racially aggravated conduct, contrary to the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 Section 50A (1)(b) and 5.

 

We the undersigned, condemn this attempt by Scottish prosecutors yet again to conflate legitimate political criticism of the State of Israel with racism.


One version of the Israeli flagCupar's procurator fiscal obviously missed the Herald's front page headline last year: "Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, rules sheriff" (April 9th 2010). Scottish prosecutors had levelled the same "racially aggravated conduct" charge against five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) for disrupting a concert by the Jerusalem String Quartet, cultural ambassadors of the State of Israel. What The Times referred to as a "landmark ruling" established a precedent in Scots law about the right of political protest against the State of Israel and the abuse of the racism legislation. Sheriff James Scott ruled that the "comments were clearly directed at the State of Israel, the Israeli Army, and Israeli Army musicians", and not targeted at "citizens of Israel" per se. "The procurator fiscal's attempts to squeeze malice and ill will out of the agreed facts were rather strained", he said. The Edinburgh Sheriff expressed concern that to have continued with the prosecution would have had implications for freedom of expression more generally.

In spite of that clear ruling, the legislation put in place to fight the scourge of racism continues to be abused in an attempt to stifle criticism of Israel, and satisfy its supporters.

Israel has a long history of deflecting criticism of its policies by calling its critics anti-The 'butcher's apron'Semitic — a tactic typical of those who defend the indefensible. Whilst this is expected from Israel, it is unacceptable that the Scottish Courts should allow themselves to be politicised in this way.

We call on Scottish prosecutors to drop this ridiculous charge.

-------------

The trial begins on Monday August 22nd. Please meet outside Cupar Sheriff Court at 9am


See past reports:
Israel Critics face "racism" charge (10th May 2011)
Israel critics "racism" trial adjourned (12th May 2011)
Jewish group defends Israel critics (19th Aug 2011) 

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