LONDON: Palestine student societies in the UK face criminal investigation if they show support for Hamas, university vice chancellors have said after a series of police reports were filed over social media posts, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
Hamas was proscribed as a terrorist organization by the UK government in 2021, giving authorities the power to prosecute anyone deemed to show support for the Palestinian group.
Wearing clothing or carrying flags in public that “arouse reasonable suspicion” of support for Hamas carries a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Societies at institutions including University College London, the School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of Warwick have shown support for Palestine on social media in recent days.
Warwick’s Palestine society said: “We stand in solidarity with Gaza, the martyrs and the resistance to this vile occupation.”
At SOAS’s Palestine society, students said on Instagram: “The Palestinian people have the right to resist occupation by any means necessary.”
The Justice for Palestine society at UCL posted a quote from Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, which referred to Israel’s “fascist and criminal settlers.”
Any student that “behaves to support an illegal organization” will be “subjected not only to discipline from us but discipline from the police,” said University of Birmingham Vice Chancellor Prof. Adam Tickell. “Like all universities we work very closely on extremism among our students.”
A spokesman for the University of Warwick said the matter “has been raised with the police.”
A UCL spokesman said: “We condemn any form of racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, discrimination, incitement, abuse, bullying or harassment.
“We are investigating this incident and will take appropriate action, if necessary, through our disciplinary processes.
“We are currently doing everything we can to provide support to those affected by the horrific events.”