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Ex-Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen convicted of hate speech: Reports

Britain First leader Paul Golding and two other Englishmen, John Banks and Paul Rimmer, were acquitted on similar charges
Jayda Fransen heading for court appearance last year (AFP/file photo)

A former deputy leader of far-right group Britain First has been convicted of stirring up hatred during a speech about Islam in Belfast at a rally in August 2017, according to media reports.

Jayda Fransen, 33, was also convicted for separate comments filmed at a peace wall in the city, the BBC reported.

Britain First leader Paul Golding, 37, and two other Englishmen, John Banks and Paul Rimmer, were acquitted on similar charges. The judge said some of their speeches were "ugly" but had not crossed the line into being illegal, according to the Irish Times. 

Britain First was founded as a splinter group of the British National Party. Its members became known for launching so-called Christian patrols and mosque "invasions" while campaigning against immigration and Islam, according to the Independent.

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The group gained international notoriety in 2017 after US President Donald Trump was condemned by the UK prime minister's office for retweeting anti-Muslim videos posted on Fransen's Twitter account, MEE reported. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said at the time: "British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents - decency, tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the president to have done this."

Fransen said in January she had left Britain First to start an "exciting new chapter".

The judge described Fransen's speech as "a general, vehement attack against a religious group" and told Fransen to return to Belfast Magistrates' Court for sentencing in May.

All four defendants were on trial over speeches they gave two years ago at a "Northern Ireland Against Terrorism" event in which they were accused of using threatening, abusive or insulting words intended to stir up hatred or arouse fear.

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Defence lawyers had argued that each of the accused were entitled to freedom of expression no matter how offensive their speeches may have been.

The court heard that Fransen told those gathered at the rally that there was no moderate version of Islam and that "These people are baying for our blood," the BBC reported.

She added: "Islam says every single one of you wonderful people here today deserves to be killed."

Those attending the rally were then told it was time for the world to come together against "the one common enemy," the BBC said.

The judge told the court: "I'm satisfied these words were intended to stir up hatred and arouse fear."

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