MPs urge UK government to toughen ban on Hezbollah

Hezbollah had previously been allowed to operate its political wing in Britain which had led to supporters displaying the group’s flag at official demonstrations. (File/AFP)
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Updated 31 July 2020

MPs urge UK government to toughen ban on Hezbollah

  • Iran-backed Hezbollah, founded in 1985, was banned in the UK in March 2019
  • The group had previously been allowed to operate its political wing in Britain

LONDON: MPs have written a letter to the UK government urging it to expand the country’s ban on Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, amid fears that current measures do not go far enough.
Iran-backed Hezbollah, founded in 1985, was banned in the UK in March 2019. The group had previously been allowed to operate its political wing in Britain.
That freedom had led to Hezbollah supporters marching through the streets of London and elsewhere on many occasions, chanting slogans and displaying the group’s flag at official demonstrations.
MPs from across the political spectrum wrote to the UK Minister of State for Security James Brokenshire to highlight an alarming lack of data in the public sphere about Hezbollah’s membership and ties, convictions for offenses related to the organization, and to express concern over its influence in the country.
The UK government has so far refused to say how many people have been charged or convicted of offenses regarding support for Hezbollah since the 2019 ban.
“The display of flags and other symbols of illegal organizations in public spaces by fellow British citizens, such as on political marches or on social media, is evident and offensive to ordinary people,” the letter said.
It added that without public data, it would be impossible to “properly asses” the effectiveness of the UK’s ban on Hezbollah.
The letter was signed by MPs from the governing Conservative Party, Labour and the Democratic Unionists.
Hezbollah has close historical ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Analysts say the IRGC often uses Hezbollah as a proxy force.


US Oxford vaccine trials still on hold over spinal-cord fears

Updated 21 September 2020

US Oxford vaccine trials still on hold over spinal-cord fears

  • Two British women in America suffered adverse effects
  • Further setbacks could doom major frontrunner in global race for COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: Human trials of the Oxford and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine have yet to resume in the US over concerns that the jab may cause a neurological condition that affects the spinal cord.

The US trials have been paused on two separate occasions after two British women receiving the experimental vaccine developed a condition causing inflammation of their spinal cords that can, in serious cases, cause paralysis.

The trials resumed quickly after the first pause when it was discovered that one of the British women had multiple sclerosis, a condition that can cause the same neurological reaction in the spine. But the second pause, first reported two weeks ago, is still ongoing in the US.

The second woman was hospitalized and has recovered, but due to stringent regulations in the US the trials have yet to resume. Trials of the same vaccine have since restarted in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa.

AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant, said it conducted safety reviews into the vaccine following the two women’s illnesses, and “after independent review, these illnesses were either considered unlikely to be associated with the vaccine or there was insufficient evidence to say for certain that the illnesses were or were not related to the vaccine.”

On Saturday it released further data on its trial protocol to allay safety concerns, but US regulators and experts remain concerned with the inoculation’s safety.

The US Food and Drug Administration, the country’s main drugs regulator, has not commented but has reportedly requested further data on the two adverse reactions.

Mark Slifka, a vaccine expert at Oregon Health and Science University, said: “If there are two cases, then this starts to look like a dangerous pattern. If a third case of neurological disease pops up in the vaccine group, then this vaccine may be done.”

Should the Oxford vaccine be aborted, it would be a major setback for a research project seen as one of the frontrunners in the global vaccine race.

The US and UK have both invested major sums of money into accelerating the vaccine’s development.

In May, the US government provided AstraZeneca with over $1 billion to speed up its American trials, and the UK has invested over £80 million ($103 million) directly into Oxford University’s side of the vaccine research.