LONDON (Reuters) – The leaders of a far-right British party, one of whom gained widespread attention after a message she posted online was re-tweeted by U.S President Donald Trump, were found guilty on Wednesday of religiously aggravated harassment.
Paul Golding, 36, leader of the anti-immigration Britain First party, and his deputy Jayda Fransen, 31, were convicted of filming and harassing people they believed were involved in a rape trial involving a number of Muslim men at a court in Canterbury, Kent.
They posted their actions on the Britain First website and also delivered offensive leaflets to homes in the area where those involved in the case lived, prosecutors told Folkestone magistrates court.
“The prosecution case demonstrated these defendants were not merely exercising their right to free speech but were instead aiming religiously aggravated abuse at innocent members of the public,” Chief Crown Prosecutor Jaswant Narwal said in a statement.
Last November, Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos posted by Fransen, drawing condemnation from across Britain including Prime Minister Theresa May.
Trump initially fired back at May, saying she should focus on “the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom”, but in January he said he had not intended to cause offence in Britain and his retweet was not an endorsement.
“If you’re telling me they’re horrible people, horrible racist people, I would certainly apologize if you would like me to do that,” Trump said in an interview with a British broadcaster.
Fransen, who was convicted last year for abusing a Muslim woman, said at the time she believed Trump had been “railroaded” into making an apology. She and Golding, who will both be sentenced at a later date, have accused the authorities of persecution.
Last week, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer warned Britain was facing a serious and growing threat from far-right terrorism, often fuelled by online extremism.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)