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Anger as activists blocked from Labour Party Conference

AS THOUSANDS head to Brighton for the Labour Party conference this weekend, a number of activists have been denied entry to the annual event by the Home Office, police and even the party’s own apparatus.

The most high-profile activist who will not be there is Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian man who co-founded the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

His plans to speak at Labour conference fringe events have been thwarted by the Home Office, who are accused of sitting on his visa application. 

Another activist struggling to gain entry is Sam Knights, who sits on the committee of Islington South Labour Party, the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and Islington Young Labour. 

He was elected as a conference delegate but has now been told by police that he poses a security threat — he believes because of his involvement with Extinction Rebellion.

The media has also faced restrictions, and the National Union of Journalists has condemned the Labour Party’s decision to revoke a press pass from Electronic Intifada journalist Asa Winstanley.

Mr Barghouti’s case has triggered the most outrage so far, with trade union leader Kevin Courtney saying: “The National Education Union invited Omar Barghouti to the Labour Party conference fringe at a crucial time when global solidarity with the Palestinian people is needed more than ever. 

“We cannot see any valid reason why his visa application would be delayed and we call on the UK government to uphold its responsibilities to freedom of movement and expression.”

The veteran Palestinian activist was due to speak at a fringe event hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, alongside shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and Labour MP Lisa Nandy.

Instead he will now have to speak via a video link, which will also be broadcast at The World Transformed fringe festival.

Mr Barghouti had planned to highlight how a Palestinian woman was shot by the Israeli military last week at a checkpoint, and died because she was not allowed medical care. 

He blamed the delay in his visa application on British immigration officials, who he said “fear our shining a light of truth that reveals their lies.”

The Home Office said Mr Barghouti “will receive a decision shortly” and that his application is within processing time targets.

Sussex Police refused to discuss any individual case but said it “works in conjunction with the National Accreditation Team in assessing all applications, which are then submitted to the Labour Party.”

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