In my capacity as General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, I went to Speakers’ Corner on June 27th to celebrate its 150th anniversary, only to discover that the Christian preacher Hatun Tash, a member of the Free Speech Union, had been arrested by the Metropolitan Police the day before. In a scandalous miscarriage of justice, she was arrested after being robbed – you read that correctly – and taken into police custody for 24 hours where, among other things, she was strip searched. She was later told by the police that the reason she’d been arrested was because she was wearing an ‘offensive’ t-shirt – it reproduced one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
The Free Speech Union wrote to the then Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Stephen House, to complain about the arrest of our member, asking for an apology. (You can read that letter here.) We also wrote to Dame Cressida Dick, then the Commissioner of the Met, the year before about another occasion on which Ms. Tash had been arrested, seemingly for the crime of being ‘offensive’ to the Muslim young men who frequent Speakers’ Corner, again asking for an apology.
Well, yesterday, Hatun Tash finally got that apology. Thanks to the efforts of the Christian Legal Centre, who helped her bring a legal case against the Met, she has also been paid £10,000 in damages (which she has given to Christian Concern). The Times has more:
The Met police has paid £10,000 in damages and apologised to a Christian preacher who was wrongly arrested twice at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.
Hatun Tash, an evangelist who regularly critiques and debates the Quran and Islam at the park, was arrested in 2020 and last year.
On both occasions, Tash told officers that she was being harassed and threatened by Islamic protesters. Instead of protecting her, she said, the police arrested her for breaching the peace and other public order offences.