Los Angeles, California-(10/16/2008)-Two jailed writers who were convicted in Britain of Internet hate speech on a U.S.-based web site will be forced to remain in special asylum proceedings with no right to a bail hearing, a Los Angeles Immigration Court judge ruled October 14, 2008.
"That is a very bad blow to their hopes of freedom in the near future, and indeed to all asylum seekers and defenders of free speech in the United States," said Paul Ballard from the United Kingdom, coordinator of a legal defense fund for the pair known as the "Heretical Two" (based on the website www.heretical.com ).
The pair, Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, have since July 14 been in the custody of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in a Santa Ana, California contract detention facility, after disembarking that same date from a plane at Los Angeles International Airport, where they immediately asked for political asylum. They fled Britain after being convicted July 11 in a Leeds courtroom of inciting racial hatred for publishing writings such as "Don't Be Sheeple" and "The Holohoax," including some published on Sheppard's website operated from a server in Torrance, California.
Ballard noted that British law since 1986 allows for criminal conviction for speech if the subject speech is "likely to result" in the "stirring up" of racial hatred. A conviction requires no proof of violence or intent.
Leichty said the actions of the U.S. government to date have added insult to injury. "Here are two British individuals who published speech that was legally protected in the United States, for which they were criminally prosecuted in Britain," said Leichty, "and now the case has taken an even more Kafkaesque turn since the one country that should be protecting them from imprisonment in Britain has instead thrown them into U.S. jail for an indefinite period of time, based only on the fact that they requested political asylum."
"Refugees are protected by international treaty; no country should treat political refugees like these two have been treated, particularly where they enter the host country legally."
Leichty notes that Homeland Security admitted in its Immigration Court brief that the two were admitted to the United States under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and that until they made their request for political asylum at Los Angeles Airport DHS had no reason to suspect or detain them. Once the two told their story to airport officers, however,DHS attempted to revoke its decision admitting them to the U.S. and to declare the two "inadmissible" on the ground that they entered with the intent to stay in the U.S. as immigrants, which Leichty says is both preposterous on the facts of the case and in any event not within the powers of airport officers.
Leichty said that, although the recent and more notorious arrest of Frederick Toben in London involves a German extradition request, he is not aware of any request by the U.K. for the extradition of Sheppard and Whittle, and in any case the United tates typically does not extradite persons who are convicted of crimes which are not crimes in the U.S.
"It is clear that obsessive security apparatuses in two different countries have now run amok, by respectively making criminals out of dissidents and by locking them up even though they are not criminals. One does not have to share the views or style of the Heretical Two to appreciate the threat posed by this type of case to individual rights and liberties."
"The laws under which Sheppard and Whittle were prosecuted could just as easily be used to subject nonconformist American publishers to criminal penalties in Britain."
"Both men state that they were living peaceably and civilly in Britain until the police disrupted their lives by raiding their flats and seizing their papers and property," says Leichty. The British press has repeatedly referred to them as the "race hate pair."
"There are people who want to criminalize `hate speech' in the U.S., too," noted Leichty. "But as officers of the court, attorneys should remind people that even speech perceived as hateful deserves protection. One man's `hate' may be another man's passion or critique, or even another man's creed. The United States should lead the way in showing disapproval of those nations who have sought to restrict the nonviolent expression of opinion and belief.
"The Heretical Two are no more criminal than many of our American forebears who fled repression to settle this country--and no doubt they may say repugnant things just like other blogging Americans. Ignore or despise them or ridicule them if you wish, dialogue with them if you dare, but don't imprison them."
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