Councillor arrested for saying columnist should be stoned

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The Independent Online

A city councillor has been arrested after he posted a message on Twitter suggesting that The Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown be stoned to death following comments she made on a radio show.

Gareth Compton, a Conservative councillor for Erdington in Birmingham, called for the journalist to face the punishment after an appearance she made on Radio 5 Live when she said that politicians should not comment on human rights abuses.

The 38-year-old's post, which has been deleted, allegedly read: "Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing."

After being arrested under the Communications Act 2003 and bailed on Wednesday, Mr Compton posted another message in which he apologised. He wrote: "I did not 'call' for the stoning of anybody. I made an ill-conceived attempt at humour in response to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown saying on Radio 5 Live... that no politician had the right to comment on human rights abuses, even the stoning of women in Iran. I apologise for any offence caused. It was wholly unintentional."

Yesterday, the Conservative Party said Mr Compton had been suspended indefinitely. Last night his Twitter page appeared to have been removed from the website. A party spokesman said: "Language of this sort is not acceptable and as a result Gareth Compton's membership of the Conservative Party has been indefinitely suspended pending further investigation."

Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, said: "It is staggering that the Conservative Party allowed Gareth Compton to represent the people of Birmingham in the first place. His despicable comments on Twitter show that he has no place in public office. This sorry saga calls into question the leadership of the Conservative Party at all levels, they must stop dithering and force him to resign his seat on Birmingham City Council."

Later Mr McCabe asked the Commons Leader Sir George Young to consider granting a debate on stoning in Iran. Sir George said: "Stoning to death is a barbarous form of punishment which the Government, and I am sure every honourable member of this House, deplores."

Birmingham City Council and Conservative group leader Mike Whitby said the comments were "unacceptable", adding: "As a matter of course Cllr Compton has been suspended from the Conservative group."