How not to prosecute race/religious aggravation: the case of Jed Zia-Hughes

At a pro-Israel counter-demo last May I was attacked by Jed Zia-Hughes. Hughes was 18 at that time. He lives with his parents and is studying Life Sciences at Brunel University. He says he’s ¼ English, ¼ Irish and ½ ?Pakistani ?Palestinian (It was hard to hear).

He pleaded guilty to the crime of Violent Disorder.  In a landmark decision the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service asked that his sentence should be increased due to a ‘racial and religious’ element – if the Court agreed, this would (as far as I know) have been the first time in the UK that a crime perpetrated on a pro-Israel advocate was considered more than just ‘political’; the first judicial recognition of the unbreakable link between Jews and Israel.

The ‘racial and religious aggravation’ ‘Newton Hearing’ happened yesterday afternoon (23 March) in Court 13 at London’s Southwark Crown Court.  The Judge was Alexander Milne QC. The barrister for the Crown was John Coates. The defence barrister was Zara Brawley. I was called as a Witness but John Coates in the Witness Room told me I would not be needed.

Sadly the race/religion aggravation case failed – so there was no uplift to his sentence. For Violent Disorder, Zia-Hughes received a 9 month sentence suspended for 2 years plus 100 hours of Community Service.


What happened

I want here to focus on the way the case was prosecuted by Mr Coates. Because his arguments were totally shambolic and misguided. He said he had no evidence that the motivation for the crime was racial/religious but the ‘context’ suggested that it must have been. Zia-Hughes must have known that some of the 10 counter-demonstraters were Jewish. The fact that Zia-Hughes had jumped from a height ‘with hyper-extended legs’ (police evidence) – using his legs as a weapon- showed a hatred of Jews and/or Israelis.

Taking the stand, Zia-Hughes easily rebutted these arguments. He had no idea about the religion of the 10 pro-Israel demonstraters. There were many ethnicities in the anti-Israel demonstration and there was no reason to suppose that the pro-Israel demonstration was any different. When he jumped, his mind was not focused on either our nationality or our religion. He denied any hostility to Israelis or Jews. He was purely focused on the ‘atrocities’ committed by the IDF who had ‘raped and murdered’ Palestinians: “I see Palestinians as innocent and Israel supporters as supporting terror”.  He had jumped not to injure us but to ‘confront’ us (!) He had climbed the steps to the platform above us “to get away from the chaos” of the main demonstration (!).  He had joined in shouts of ‘Shame on You” but said they were neither directed at all Israelis nor at all Jews. (In his police interview he called us – the 10 pro-Israel demonstraters – “terrorist supporters” and said it was not right that we had police protection.  On arrest he said “I could have got away with it but I stood there and took it like an idiot”).

Ms Brawley noted that he had taken a  photo of Neturei Karta with a Palestinian flag at the demonstration, the obvious inference being to ‘break the link’ between Judaism and Israel.   But Mr Coates  cast doubt on whether Zia-Hughes had taken the Neturei Karta photo, by pointing out that another photo which Zia-Hughes claimed was taken in front of the Royal Albert Hall was in fact taken in Trafalgar Square. He accused Zia-Hughes of dishonesty because he had said he could not use the stairs to descend from the platform over us (because he would have descended into the police ‘bubble’).

I could see that Judge Milne (who presided by video – why? How can you spot if someone’s body language is mendacious by video? As the victim would it not have been courteous to apologise and reveal the reason?) was unconvinced by Mr Coates’ arguments. After Mr Coates’ submission, Judge Milne said:

So you are inviting me to conclude that Israeli and Jewish are interchangeable for racial purposes?’ Judge Milne asked. ‘As I understand it, the Israeli people embrace both those of Jewish and Arab heritage.’

(This is from the Court Report report but my notes say he used (either here or later) the word ‘Palestinians’ and not the correct nomenclature, ‘Israeli Arabs’).  Another victim had said in his statement that the hostility shown to us was due to our ‘political views’. Of course Judge Milne and Ms Brawley seized this as showing that hostility to Israel was ‘political’ and not ‘racial/religious’.  (The other victim does not have English as their first language and I am sure they would say that the use of the word ‘political’ does not preclude racial/religious motivation).

In the light of the execrable submission of John Coates I cannot argue with Judge Milne’s verdict – that a racial/religious motivation for Zia-Hughes’ crime was not proved to the criminal standard – ie beyond reasonable doubt.

What SHOULD have happened

(i) The legislation

(Many thanks to UKLFI for assistance here).

The relevant legislation is the Crime and Disorder Act 1988.

Note 28(1)(b) – ‘the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a [racial or religious group] based on their membership of that group’.  Note also 28(4): ‘In this section “racial group” means a group of persons defined by reference to race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins’.  The key point is that the offence in this case was (see below) clearly motivated by Zia-Hughes’ hostility towards Israelis (‘a group of persons defined by reference to nationality’). It was blindingly obvious that we were not – for example – there to support Belgians. Because of our Israeli flags and the huge banner we were displaying. Our religion was IRRELEVANT. Ditto our citizenship. Zia-Hughes’ hostility was directed towards Israelis.

(Also irrelevant is whether it was all Israelis or just the IDF. In any case since the vast majority of Israeli Jews- and some Israeli Arabs – serve in the IDF – and the IDF is essential to the State’s survival – venom directed at the IDF is effectively directed at all Israelis).

(ii) The Motive

That of itself would have been enough to win the case. But there is also considerable evidence suggesting that Zia-Hughes has become indoctrinated against Jews and Israel. And the prosecution should obviously have considered that. It’s common sense FFS. How can you delve into someone’s motive without delving into their background?

Googling his name reveals this link.

A young person who has raised money for Yaseen Youth must surely have attended its meetings.

Yaseen Youth (not a charity) was founded and is headed by Omar Hajaj (also spelled ‘Hajjaj’).

For a profile of Omar Hajaj see Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Islamist Extremists Exploit the UK Charitable Sector by Emma Webb (Henry Jackson Society 2018), pages 61, 106 and 107.

Hajaj was previously (August-October 2012) Head of Campaigns for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), founded by Islamist activists from the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami in 1962. He participated in the Muslim Prisoner Support Belmarsh Iftar. FOSIS was condemned by former Home Secretary Theresa May and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for its failure to ‘challenge terrorist and extremist ideology’.

FOSIS has in the past hosted alleged extremists such as Azzam Tamimi, who has spoken in support of suicide bombing, and Al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki.

In addition, The Telegraph reported that several individuals convicted for terrorism offences have been affiliated with FOSIS.

This link shows Hajaj as head of FOSIS in 2014 (9 August, a few days after Operation Protective Edge in Gaza). The antisemitism runs free. He refers to the ‘heroes’of Gaza – this can only mean Hamas fighters.   He calls for the ‘Zionist regime to leave Palestine in its entirety’ which is a call for the end of Israel as the world’s only Jewish-character country. This is clearly antisemitic (I use the widely accepted IHRA definition).

Hajaj has spoken on a platform arranged by the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF). ‘Underwear bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who attempted to bomb a transatlantic flight on Christmas Day 2009 – attended a three day intensive programme organised by MRDF-Sabeel. Hajaj has been public relations executive of MRDF since July 2016.

This link (posted 31 May 2021, so shortly after the Gaza ceasefire) is to a ‘round table’ in which Hajaj was a participant. It contains vicious antisemitism. At 36:20 Abu Haneefah Sohail says that “Zionism is the most potent form of racism in the world”. The widely accepted (including by the UK government) IHRA definition of antisemitism states that it is antisemitic to claim (a) that ‘the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’ or to (b) ‘make mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective’.  Sohail’s statement violates  (a). Soon after, Salman Butt says that ‘pro-Israeli groups are funding the likes of Tommy Robinson’. This is a lie which violates IHRA (b). Butt continues: “The end of Islamophobia and racism requires the end of Zionism”. This also violates IHRA (b).

Here above is Omar Hajaj in October 2020 asserting that Israel ‘stole land’. It’s a lie which violates IHRA example (b) above. The land was either bought or acquired as a result of defensive Wars in 1948 and 1967 (an offer at Khartoum to return the lands acquired in 1967 was rejected):

In September 2012 FOSIS Head of Campaigns Omar Hajaj spoke at a rally calling for the release from prison of Dr Aafia Siddique, an allegedly antisemitic (and here) Al-Qaeda facilitator convicted of attempted murder in February 2010.

Siddique told a US court that Israel was behind the Sept 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.

34.36: In this talk Omar Hajaj says Palestinians had their businesses stolen. An antisemitic lie violating IHRA (b), see above.

1.00.29: Hajaj says “The Jews are invading Al Aqsa whenever they want, they occupy the whole of Palestine”. It’s an antisemitic lie violating IHRA (b). The only reason Israeli security forces entered the Al Aqsa Mosque in April or May 2021 was to pursue alleged criminals who had entered it.

1.00.30: Hajaj mentions a prophecy: he says ‘even the trees will support the Muslims in fighting the Jews’. This is a reference to the antisemitic Article 7 of the Hamas Charter.

On 21 May 2021 (the day after the ceasefire, following Israel’s attack on terrorist sites in Gaza) Salman Butt spoke to Yaseen Youth. He told them (02:59) the antisemitic lie that Israel was “attempting to murder the Palestinian brothers and sisters again and again and again”. Again at 03:32. At 07:19: “The Muslims are learning how to play the media game that the Zionists have been playing for 50, 60, 70 years.” See IHRA example (b) above: Jewish control of the media is a well-known antisemitic trope. 12:28: “The Zionist Lobby can get the media to say whatever they want” 15:25: he suggests Israel has committed “ethnic cleansing, apartheid, attempted genocide” – all antisemitic suggestions according to IHRA example (b). 29:25: He tells his audience to boycott Israeli goods (“BDS”).  This is antisemitic on two counts. First Israel has done nothing to merit a boycott. It has simply acted to protect its population from terror. So IHRA (b) is violated.  Second the IHRA definition of antisemitism states that it is antisemitic to (c) apply double standards to Israel, by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation. If Israel is the only democratic country Butt wants to boycott, that’s antisemitic. 

Here is Salman Butt – again, a regular speaker to Yaseen Youth – supporting Hamas and making the antisemitic comparison of Mark Regev to Goebbels.

Asif Uddin spoke to Yassin Youth on 16 May 2021 – that is, during Israel’s action in Gaza.

3.30: He says ‘Millions of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed’. It’s a lie and it’s antisemitic (IHRA (b)).

4:14: He says that the Al Aqsa Mosque (he calls it the ‘first qibla’) was attacked. This is a lie and is antisemitic (IHRA (b)). The only reason Israeli security forces entered the Mosque in April or May 2021 was because suspected criminals had entered.

9.41: He speaks of ‘stolen land’, an antisemitic lie, see above

10.20: He suggests Al Aqsa is being attacked, an antisemitic lie, see above

So those are the arguments that John Coates SHOULD have made.

And precisely those are the arguments on the document that I hand delivered to the CPS (102 Petty France SW1) on 4 January. I know they got to the right person ….

… and that they should have got to John Coates. In the Witness Room on 23 March I checked if he had seen the document and offered him a quick teach-in but he declined …

Conclusion

I was pleased that at long last the CPS was prepared to admit that there is a link between Judaism and Israel. But I was appalled at the way the Zia-Hughes case of race/religion aggravation was prosecuted. I’ve complained to John Coates’ Chambers and to the CPS. And look at the red underlined sentence in the above letter: Is the CPS seriously admitting defeat before the hearing?

I hope the CPS will take this blog as a Case Study and that it enables future similar cases to be handled with far more competence and understanding of the meanings in legislation. This case could have succeeded if only the prosecutor had done his homework!

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