It should not be a crime to belong to an organisation such as Islamic State or al-Qaeda, the leader of the Green party Natalie Bennett has said, because people should not be punished for what they think.
But Ms Bennett insisted that people who incite or support acts of violence “should be pursued to the full extent of the law”, when speaking on BBC1’s Sunday Politics show.
Green party policy states that “it should not be a crime simply to belong to an organisation or have sympathy with its aims, though it should be a crime to aid and abet criminal acts or deliberately fund such acts”.
MS Bennett was challenged about the policy on the show and asked whether the party would make it legal for people living in Britain to join brutal terrorist groups such as Islamic State (also known as Isis).
UK terrorism laws currently state that belonging to any of the identified terrorist organisations, such as al-Qaeda or Isis or the IRA, or appearing to support them, is illegal.
“Obviously actions of inciting violence, supporting violence, those are absolutely unacceptable, illegal and should be pursued to the full extent of the law.”
She added: “What we are talking about is a principle that you shouldn’t be punished for what you think. And we need to balance, we do not protect freedom by destroying it.”
Ms Bennett said it was important for the Government to defend free speech, adding that legislation which makes people’s memberships of specific organisations was outdated.
“This is part of our policy that I think dates back to the age of the ANC and apartheid South Africa,” she said.
Ms Bennett’s comments follow her strong stance on the abolition of the monarchy, and her views that the Queen should be evicted from Buckingham Palace and moved into a council house – while the party would build more social housing for people in the UK.
Ms Bennett, who said she will represent her party in two televised leaders debates under the proposals set out by broadcasters, also said the Green party would reshape the military to create a smaller home defence force and progressively ease immigration controls while on the show.
Additional reporting by PA
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