Home Secretary 'right to exclude Farrakhan'

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The Independent Online

Lawyers for the Government claimed yesterday that the controversial black American political leader Louis Farrakhan had no legal right to freedom of expression in Britain because he was not allowed into the country in the first place.

The Home Secretary had far-reaching discretionary powers under immigration law to ban individuals, and Mr Farrakhan, 68, was "well known for expressing anti-Semitic and racially divisive views", the Court of Appeal heard.

The claims were made as the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, launched an appeal against a High Court ruling that quashed a decision made by his predecessor, Jack Straw, to ban Mr Farrakhan.

Last July, lawyers for the leader of the Nation of Islam movement ­ who has been excluded from Britain since 1986 because of public order concerns ­ successfully argued that he had a right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But yesterday, Monica Carss-Frisk QC, representing the Home Secretary, told a panel of three judges headed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Phillips, that the right to freedom of expression did not apply in a case involving a decision on whether to allow a non-national into the country.

Ms Carss-Frisk said the High Court judge, Mr Justice Turner, was wrong to interfere with Mr Straw's judgment. She said: "The Home Secretary was entitled to conclude that Mr Farrakhan is well known for expressing anti-Semitic and racially divisive views, particularly at a time of political unrest in the Middle East."

Ms Carss-Frisk warned that any visit by Mr Farrakhan would inflame tensions between Jewish and Islamic communities. "If Mr Farrakhan comes to this country, publicity will inevitably focus on views he has said previously and language he has used," she said."To allow him into the country would pose a significant threat to community relations and public order."

Ms Carss-Frisk told the judges that Mr Farrakhan had displayed "classic anti-Semitism" when he said that during the Second World War "poor Jews were turned into soap while rich Jews washed their hands in it".

Outside the court, Hilary Muhammad, a Nation of Islam spokesman, said Mr Farrakhan could help reduce growing levels of "black-on-black" crime.

He accused ministers of reneging on promises to ensure that the European Convention on Human Rights was applied in Britain. "We are now trying to benefit from their promises and they are challenging us," he said. "That's ridiculous."