Sunak criticises Starmer over legal advice he gave to extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir

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Sunak criticises Starmer over legal advice he gave to extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir

Labour leader's spokesperson says he gave advice in 2008 to the group, set to be banned in the UK, as 'lawyers give advice to people they don't necessarily agree with'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in London.
Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in London.

Rishi Sunak has attempted to use Keir Starmer’s past record as a barrister, when he offered advice to the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir in a case in Germany, as means of discrediting the Labour leader’s position on UK security.

But defending the Labour leader’s decision to deal with the group, who the UK plans to ban as “an antisemitic group that promotes terror”, a spokesperson for Starmer told journalists he had offered advice out of “a long-standing principle that lawyers give advice to people they don’t necessarily agree with.”

At PMQs on in the Commons on Wednesday, the prime minister responded to repeated attacks by Starmer on the crisis around his Rwanda small boats plan, try telling MPs:” Just this week we had another example of him doing one thing, saying another, because this week he backed the Home Secretary (James Cleverly) in banning the terrorist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, despite him personally using the European Court of Human Rights to try and stop them being banned.

“Don’t take my word for it, the extremists’ own press release said ‘the Hizb ut-Tahrir legal team led by Keir Starmer’.

“I know he doesn’t like talking about them because they have been a client, but when I see a group chanting jihad on our streets I ban them, he invoices them.”

The allegation, first reported in the Sunday Telegraph last month, centred on an application made to the European Court in Strasbourg seeking to overturn a ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir activity in Germany.

Rishi Sunak at PMQs

A press release issued by Hizb ut-Tahrir in June 2008 said the group’s legal team “led by Keir Starmer QC” had highlighted various points in the submission.

The home secretary announced on Monday that Hizb ut-Tahrir will be banned from organising in the UK after claims that the group is antisemitic.

If agreed by parliament, a draft order that was laid on Monday will come into force on 19 January.

The Islamist group, which is already banned in countries including Germany and Indonesia, will no longer be allowed to recruit or hold protests and meetings across the UK.

Questioned by Westminster journalists on Wednesday about Starmer’s involvement with the case, the Labour leader’s spokesperson confirmed he “was asked to give advice” but that “he never represented them.”

Starmer’s spokesperson said that at the time the barrister had been contacted to offer advice on whether there was grounds for an appeal under the ECHR.

Starmer was a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in 2008, and had offered advice alongside three other legal experts.

The spokesperson said he was not at liberty to say what that advice given at the time was, but “that was the extent” of Starmer’s involvement.

As it was an international law case, Starmer had been contacted as someone able to offer expert advise in this field.

“The nature of being a lawyer is that you give advice to people, some of whom you don’t agree with,” the spokesperson added.

“That is the nature of giving legal advice.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

Starmer’s spokesperson added:”I think Keir Starmer’s views on this are pretty clear. He has constantly spoken out, but there is a long-standing principle that lawyers give advice to people they don’t necessarily agree with.”

The official Conservative social media platform on X/Twitter attempted to follow up on Sunak’s attack on the Labour leader by posting the claim:”This week Keir Starmer backed our ban of the terrorist group Hizb ut-Tahrir – despite him personally using the ECHR to stop them from being banned.”

Asked why they had described Hizb ut-Tahrir as an actual “terrorist group” a Downing Street spokesperson said they were not responsible for posts on the Tory page.

Since the 7 October attacks by Hamas and the subsequent military response by Israel, Hizb ut-Tahrir has not condemned Hamas, a group already proscribed in the UK, rather hailing the attacks on Israeli citizens by saying “if this can be done by a resistance group, imagine what a unified response from the Muslim world could achieve”. It has called on Muslim countries to “get your armies and go and remove the Zionist occupiers”.

Previously Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Tony Blair and David Cameron tried to ban when they were in Downing Street, has made calls to “wipe out that Zionist entity” and referred to “the monstrous Jews”.

In October, the group’s members attended a rally outside the Egyptian and Turkish embassies in London and called for “Muslim armies” to attack Israel.

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