Northern Ireland news

Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen released on bail over comments on Islam made at Belfast peace wall

 Jayda Fransen and on the far left Paul Golding arriving at court yesterday
David Young, Press Association

The deputy leader of far-right group Britain First has been released on bail after appearing in court in Belfast charged over comments about Islam made in a social media posting.

Jayda Fransen (31) has been charged with threatening behaviour over remarks made earlier this week beside a peace wall in the city.

The comments were posted on social media on Wednesday. The message said it was shot in the staunchly unionist Shankill area of west Belfast.

The video post was critical of Islam.

Fransen was bailed after a short hearing before a district judge in Belfast Magistrates' Court today, although police objected to her release.

Fransen, from Anerley in south east London, was arrested at the same court on Thursday, having appeared on a charge related to other remarks she made at a Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally in the city in August.

Britain First leader Paul Golding (35) was also arrested at court on Thursday as he accompanied Fransen.

He was later charged with using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour during a speech he made at the same Belfast rally in August.

Golding was bailed to appear in the same court next month and Fransen will also appear before that court again next month.

Fransen winked and raised her fist skyward in the dock after bail was granted. Around a dozen supporters clapped and cheered in the public gallery.

A police officer had objected to bail, claiming Fransen would commit similar offences to the one she is charged with if released.

He said Fransen had made comments urging people to "rise up and take action now" against the "Islamic ideology".

He raised concerns further similar comments could lead to attacks on Muslims.

Judge Fiona Bagnall said she acknowledged his concerns but said she would apply bail conditions to mitigate that risk.

Fransen has been prevented from going within 500 metres of any demonstration or procession in Northern Ireland - the same condition applied when she appeared on the August charge on Thursday.

"We'll see if bail terms work," the judge told the court.

"If they don't work, she'll be brought back to court and she will be in custody."

 

Outside court, Fransen accused the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of "political policing".

"This is political policing which is not what we stand for - we stand for democracy and free speech and this is a blatant attempt to prevent free speech," she said.

"I am expressing an opinion which I am entitled to do - men have fought, bled and died for that right and everything I have stated specifically about the Islamic ideology I can back up with facts straight from the Islamic scripture.

"This is a clear campaign to silence us and I assure you it won't work."

Golding flanked Fransen outside court.

He said the judge's decision to grant her bail had thwarted police efforts to crack down on his group.

"This is big blow to the police plan to stifle Britain First from getting a foothold in Northern Ireland," he said.

Fransen raised a clenched fist and said "no surrender" before leaving in a waiting car.

 

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