Lebanese movement Hezbollah is to be subjected to a blanket ban under the anti-terror laws, Home Secretary Sajid Javid proudly announced.
The Lebanese group’s military wing is already outlawed, but the ban will now be extended to its political arm.
From Friday, the membership will be a criminal offence carrying a maximum sentence of up to 10 years.
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.
In a statement, Sajid Javid said: “Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilize 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, the UK governments have resisted proscribing the organisation in its entirety on the basis that it provides a huge amount of social and political function and support for the British 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, which Israeli groups have objected to these.
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 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.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the move to ban Hezbollah’s political wing was “long overdue”.
He said: “I have been clear that anti-Semitism and hate crime has no place whatsoever in our city or in our society. I wrote to both the previous home secretary Amber Rudd and current Home Secretary Sajid Javid to raise my deep concerns about the support shown for Hezbollah at the annual Al Quds march in London.”
Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if he believes it is “concerned in terrorism”.
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