Hezbollah to be subject to blanket ban, Home Secretary announces

Hezbollah is to be subject to a blanket ban under anti-terror laws, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced.

The Lebanon-based group’s military wing is already outlawed, but the proscription will now be extended to its political arm.

If approved by Parliament, the step will bring Britain in line with countries including the US in regarding the whole of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

From Friday, membership will be a criminal offence carrying a maximum sentence of up to 10 years.

Mr Javid said: “Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party.

“Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”

Until now, UK governments have resisted proscribing the organisation in its entirety on the basis that it provides social and political functions in Lebanon and has formed part of the country’s government.

But MPs and Jewish groups argue that it is a single entity, and have called on ministers to close the loophole, which allows Hezbollah’s flag to be flown legally on Britain’s streets during marches.

Hezbollah – or the Party of God – is a Shia Muslim movement which emerged during the early 1980s with financial backing from Iran.

In 2001, ministers banned its external security organisation. Seven years later, the proscription was extended to Hezbollah’s military wing.

A listing in the official register of banned groups says Hezbollah is “committed to armed resistance to the state of Israel, and aims to seize all Palestinian territories and Jerusalem from Israel”, adding: “Its military wing supports terrorism in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.”

Announcing the latest move, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are staunch supporters of a stable and prosperous Lebanon.

“We cannot however be complacent when it comes to terrorism – it is clear the distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings does not exist, and by proscribing Hezbollah in all its forms, the government is sending a clear signal that its destabilising activities in the region are totally unacceptable and detrimental to the UK’s national security.

“This does not change our ongoing commitment to Lebanon, with whom we have a broad and strong relationship.”

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if he believes it is “concerned in terrorism”.

As a result, being a member of, or inviting support for, the group is illegal.

It is also an offence to wear clothing or carry or display an article in public “in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion” that an individual is a member or supporter of the proscribed organisation.

Anyone convicted of such an offence could face up to six months in prison.

Mr Javid is also seeking the proscription of two other groups, Ansaroul Islam and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin (JNIM).

The Home Office said: “Ansaroul Islam seeks to impose its own strict Salafist Sharia law in northern Burkina Faso and are known to target other ethnic groups in the region leading to substantial internal displacement of people.

“JNIM was established in March 2017 as a federation of al Qaeda-aligned groups in Mali and aims to impose a strict Salafist interpretation of Sharia law in the Sahel region and has claimed responsibility for several attacks in the region in which people were killed.”

Mr Javid said protecting British people is his priority.

“As part of this, we identify and ban any terrorist organisation which threatens our safety and security, whatever their motivations or ideology which is why I am taking action against several organisations today,” he added.

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