Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Freedom of Speech part 2

Abu Hamza gets 7 years for soliciting murder, stirring up racial hatred and possessing a 'terrorist encycolpaedia'. He won't, of course serve 7 years, but will get out in three and a half - less time that Archer served for perjury. This case illustrates precisely where the British lines on freedom of speech are drawn. He has been jailed not for what he has done, but for what he has said.

Some might find this unpleasant, or at least disturbing, but in may ways the British compromise is a classic fudge, retaining the basic principle of freedom, while addressing some of its associated difficulties. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the American jurist, once defined untrammelled freedom of speech as 'the liberty to shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre.' In Britain, such a shout lays the shouter open to prosecution for any resulting injury that might have been expected.

With Hamza, what is less clear is where this leaves him vis a vis the impending American extradition order. He's wanted there for his alleged involvement in setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon. Maybe 7 years is only the beginning...

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