The following open letter is now available to sign at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-ministry-of-justice-uk-discuss-the-conviction-of-azhar-ahmed – please sign it.
We the undersigned would like to express our dismay at the guilty finding in the case of Azhar Ahmed which was tried at Huddersfield Magistrate’s Court on 14th September 2012
We do not recognise District Judge Jane Goodwin’s finding that Azhar Ahmed’s Facebook post was “grossly offensive”. Whilst we fully accept that Ahmed’s post may have been disagreeable and even upsetting to some who read it, we are convinced that Ahmed was doing no more than exercising his democratic right to express a political opinion in an “open and just multi-cultural society”. We do not accept the characterisation of his post as grossly offensive such that his words constitute a criminal offence under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.
We would direct the reader to the comments of the Lord Chief Justice in reference to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 in his judgement on Chambers v DPP 2012 at the High Court:
The 2003 Act did not create some newly minted interference with the first of President Roosevelt’s essential freedoms – freedom of speech and expression. Satirical, or iconoclastic, or rude comment, the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it should and no doubt will continue at their customary level, quite undiminished by this legislation.
We submit that to apply section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 in the way it has been applied in this judgement would be incompatible with Azhar Ahmed’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights Article 10. To paraphrase John Cooper QC in Chambers v DPP: section 127 as interpreted in the Ahmed judgment of 14th September is incompatible with Article 10, and also the ruling in Chambers v DPP 2012.
Finally, we would like to express our support of, and fellowship with, anyone who believes that their freedom of expression has been interfered with, or limited by, the court finding Azhar Ahmed guilty at Huddersfield Magistrate’s Court on 14th September 2012.
* The following para was removed:
Additionally we would note that Azhar Ahmed appears to have been the victim of a far right hate campaign, in that his comments were copied, pasted and redistributed amongst nationalist and/or racist activists. We would point to the witness statements of Mr Samir Ahmed and Craig Oakland which appear to indicate a sustained campaign of harassment which bears all the hallmarks of a far right intimidation exercise. We doubt strongly that Azhar Ahmed’s case would have ever come to court were it not for these activities.