A Conservative Birmingham City councillor has been arrested over allegations he called on Twitter for a female writer to be stoned to death.
Erdington councillor Gareth Compton made the remark about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on his Twitter page.
Ms Alibhai-Brown confirmed the comments were reported to the police.
West Midlands Police said Mr Compton had been arrested under the Communications Act 2003 and bailed. Mr Compton has since apologised.
Ms Alibhai-Brown had appeared on Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show on Wednesday discussing human rights in China.
Afterwards, Mr Compton allegedly tweeted: “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.”
Tasteless, without question. But arrestable? Sir George Young, Leader of the House, said of Compton’s tweet:
“Stoning to death is a barbarous form of punishment which the government and I am sure every honourable member of this house deplores, and I hope that no elected person will threaten any member of our society with that sort of punishment,” he said.
As with the Paul Chambers case, who on earth could have taken this seriously? I don’t even know the guy but even in a 140-character medium it’s completely clear he was being distastefully sarcastic. Here’s something: he should be allowed to be. Did he incite racial hatred? No – he was foolish and tasteless. Who cares? Something’s gone horribly wrong in this society if on a medium like twitter you should have to add disclaimers to avoid potential arrest because you might just cause something as harmless as offence. Alibhai-Brown however appears to disagree:
Alibhai-Brown said she regarded his comments as incitement to murder.
The journalist, who writes columns for the Evening Standard and the Independent, told the Guardian: “It’s really upsetting. My teenage daughter is really upset too. It’s really scared us.
“You just don’t do this. I have a lot of threats on my life. It’s incitement. I’m going to the police – I want them to know that a law’s been broken.”
At the very least she’s being overly sensitive about this. I would be the first to go after (metaphorically, you zealots) Compton if there were any indication that this were incitement to hatred or murder, but I completely disagree with her assessment of his tweet. Dr Evan Harris said on Twitter of the case:
Look, Yasmin’s a mate but police shld not arrest people for obvious joke tweets, even if offensive
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