A FAR-right Scottish extremist has been banned from protesting outside the home of radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada under a court order.
Former British National Party (BNP) official Jim Dowson and his colleagues at Britain First, a new political group with several ex-BNP members among its key personnel, had planned to protest outside the preacher's north London home yesterday.
However, on Friday high court judges granted an injunction against the demonstration after Qatada's lawyers sought to prevent it going ahead.
Loading article content
He was due to be deported to Jordan to stand trial for terrorism offences last year, but the move was blocked by senior judges and he is now living under strict bail conditions. The Home Secretary is in the process of appealing against the decision.
The protest outside his home would have been the latest in a long line of far-right campaigns headed by Dowson, who was deputy to BNP leader Nick Griffin for three years.
Portraying himself as a staunch Christian, the Scot, a militant anti-abortionist, also fronted the pro-life organisation, Life League, which published details of people they claimed encouraged terminations.
He recently involved himself in the protests over the decision to limit the flying of the union flag in Belfast which led to violent clashes with the police. Dowson is a former Orangeman and the organiser of a Scottish flute band which recorded a tape in honour of Ulster Freedom Fighter Michael Stone, who murdered three people at an IRA funeral in Belfast in 1988.
Speaking from the Shankhill area of Belfast where he was taking part in another flag protest, he told the Sunday Herald that Britain First plans to challenge the court's decision.
Dowson, from Cumbernauld, said: "This guy is costing taxpayers a fortune every month and he manages to get an injunction to say we can't protest outside his house, a house that we're paying for.
"We should have every right to express our democratic views and in two weeks time we'll be back at court to challenge the injunction.
"It's supposed to be a free country but if you can't protest outside the half-a-million-pound home of someone like this then that's a really big problem."
He added: "This guy is being protected around the clock by armed guards that we're paying for when there are pensioners dying of the cold. He should be put on a plane and deported."
According to the Britain First website, the injunction bans protests within 500 minutes of Qatada's home and warns that anyone who breaches it will be held in contempt of court.
Dowson claims his group is "always peaceful" and has previously protested outside Qatada's home without any problems.
However, instead of being angry at the court's decision, he freely admitted that the injunction has increased interest in the far-right group.
He said: "The injunction has actually been great news for us because it's been great publicity and now, instead of having just a few people interested in protesting, we've been absolutely swamped by people who are angry about the injunction."
Asked if he was now simply jumping from one controversial campaign to another to cause trouble, Dowson replied: "I've always done different campaigns because I want to stand up for what I believe in.
"I'm still involved in various things and at the moment I'm protesting in Belfast over the union flag.
"I mean, if you can't have your national flag flown in a British city, it's an absolute disgrace."
Dowson, who has convictions for weapon possession, breach of the peace and criminal damage, resigned from his post with the BNP in 2010 amid allegations he groped a female activist, which he has denied.
He set up Britain First last year and enlisted Paul Golding, former head of publicity for the BNP, as the group's national chairman.