Today's convictions of a 42-year-old food packer and a 59-year-old builder on inciting racial hatred brings to 16 the number of convictions connected to far right extremism in the past two years, as Home Affairs Correspondent Simon Israel investigates.

24/6/2010- Trevor Hannington, from South Wales, and Michael Heaton, from Lancashire, ran their own far right organisation which promised street action to help rid the country of minority communities. Their Aryan Strike Force boasted 350 members. Its website had tens of thousands of postings, all messages of hate like urging the destruction of Jews, describing them as treacherous scum. There were references to "chopping n****** legs off" and "kill the jew, burn down a synagogue today". Heaton was found guilty on four charges charges, while Hannington admitted to four terrorism charges including distributing instructions on how to turn a water pistol into a flamethrower. Both were both found not guilty of soliciting to murder. Dr Matthew Feldman, who runs the UK's only research unit on new media and domestic extremism at Northampton University, was the prosecution's key witness in this case. He says "These are neo-Nazis, pure and simple, and consider themselves really the most extreme versions of this ideological neo-Nazism that is new. "We have had some evidence, I believe, of activists from the ASF appearing on videos at the English Defence League marches and so forth."

Rise in extremism
Dr Feldman believes this recent string of convictions of "lone wolf" cases and the creation of the English Defence League point to a resurgence of far right extremism. He said: "In terms of what we might call small cell or lone wolf terrorists cases since 2008, but also other events in 2008 such as the successful election of two British National Party MEPs in the Yorkshire, Humber area, and in 2009 the creation of the English Defence League on the back of those protests by some radical Islamism groups against the return of Anglican soldiers. So I think there is a confluence of factors that do point to a resurgence in the far right." The two convicted today actually turned up at several of the EDL rallies and used their website to praise the EDL's actions. Yet the EDL denies any links to these extremists organisation. We asked for an interview with its organisers so we could put all our evidence to them. They declined. Does that mean EDL is infiltrated with those with a much more extreme agenda intent on more than just glorified football style violence? Police who monitor these events say no.

Assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell, national coordinator for domestic extremism, told Channel 4 News that "we have seen some individuals from the far right on the margins of EDL organised events but these are only one or two individuals. We have found no strong links between extreme groups like the Aryan Strike Force and the EDL." Yet today's guilty verdicts bring to 16 the total number of far right extremists who have been convicted over the past two years. Among them were father and son Ian and Nicky Davison who were sent to prison last month for possessing the poison Ricin and for making and detonating pipe bombs. They were also co-founders of the Aryan Strike Force. Dr Feldman says: "in groups like the ASF successor organisations we are seeing a group numbering in the few hundreds probably at the maximum. "That's a few hundred too many because these are not people who are far right activists for the BNP and knocking doors. These are people who may very well be considering a future as we saw in the Davison case undertaking terrorists. In fact Heaton stated publically that as part of a "rites of passage" to join, potential recruits had to carry out a serious op, meaning a violent racist attack.

Report on racism
The Institute for Race Relations is about to publish a report, which Channel 4 News has had exclusive access to, mapping out 600 serious racist attacks in the UK last year. Many have taken place in towns which have had influxes of a migrant workforce or asylum seekers. But it also hints at a correlation between attacks and pockets of extremism. We found that of the 16 extremist convictions since 2008, two thirds come from towns which form a corridor across the north of England: Penwortham, south of Preston, to Leigh, west of Manchester, to Batley, to Selby, to Goole, to Grimsby, then further north to Elsdon and Durham. Privately, police sources have confirmed to us that their intelligence suggests the same. They admit there are some dangerous individuals, but overall the threat from right wing extremists has hardly changed since the days of the nail bomber David Copeland, who killed three and seriously injured 79 people in three attacks, the worst at Soho's Admiral Duncan Pub in 1999. It was the last time white supremacists were said to behind a bomb attack in the UK. Those monitoring far right extremists attribute the recent string of convictions to a combination of "good police work", community relations and luck, rather than an increased threat. But they say what has changed is their profile boosted by a combination of the numerous convictions and the tenor of EDL marches.
© Channel 4 News
23/6/2010- The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia will contest before the Constitutional Court a freshly voted law that will allow the police greater use of wiretapping and monitoring of personal electronic communications. “We are assembling a team that will write the appeal before the court. All the amendments that we believe are against the basic human rights guaranteed by the constitution will be contested,” Keti Jandrijevska Jovanova from the Macedonian branch of the Helsinki Committee told Balkan Insight on Wednesday. Jovanova explained that they will try to file their appeal before the court as soon as possible: “probably during the summer period so that the court be able to put it on the agenda in the fall”. The controversial Law amending the Law on Electronic Communications passed the Parliament last Wednesday with the support of the ruling majority from the VMRO DPMNE party. 55 legislators supported the bill while only nine legislators in the 120 seat assembly voted against. The Helsinki Committee argues that the amendments give too much freedom to the police to perform wiretapping and other forms of monitoring of personal electronic communication, in some cases without even requiring a court order. The human rights watchdog group argues that the loose formulations in the law create space for abuse and for the invasion of citizens’ privacy.

The NGO argues that the law goes against Article 17 of the constitution which guarantees the inviolability of the freedom and secrecy of correspondence and all other forms of communication as well as Article 25 which guarantees the respect and protection of the privacy of personal and family life, dignity and reputation. Before the adoption of the amendments, Transparency Macedonia, the Open Society Institute-Macedonia and the Metamorphosis Foundation also stood against the new provisions. In a joint statement together with the Helsinki Committee they demanded their immediate withdrawal. “The bill allows the Ministry to have “constant and direct access” to the electronic communications networks and facilities of the public communications networks operators and providers of public communications services, as well as “conditions for independent downloading of traffic data”, which would make the Republic of Macedonia one of the few, or probably the only country in the world in which a state authority has such powers, without the possibility for external control,” the joint statement reads.

During the parliament discussion and voting last week ruling party lawmakers argued that the law will simply allow greater efficiency for police work and better results in the fight against crime and corruption. But local human rights activist Mirjana Najcvevska told Balkan Insight that the interpretation of the law as it stands will allow the state to eavesdrop on citizens, tap their phones, and follow their SMS and e-mail correspondence without external control. “I hope that this law will fail before the Constitutional Court because it is definitely against EU standards and directives," Najcevska said.

© Balkan Insight

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