Britain to Ban Hizbullah under Anti-Terror Laws
Britain on Monday said it will ban the political wing of Hizbullah, making membership of the movement or inviting support for it a crime.
The decision follows outrage over the display of the Hizbullah flag, which features a Kalashnikov assault rifle, at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London.
"Hizbullah is continuing in its attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East," Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.
"We are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety," he said.
Subject to Parliament's approval, the order will go into effect on Friday and being a member, or inviting support for Hizbullah will be a criminal offense, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Hizbullah made electoral gains in Lebanon last year and now has three ministers in the government. The U.S. and others accuse the group of destabilizing the region through its military intervention in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad's government.
"It is clear the distinction between Hizbullah's military and political wings does not exist," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in Monday's statement.
"This does not change our ongoing commitment to Lebanon, with whom we have a broad and strong relationship," he said.
There was no immediate comment from Hizbullah officials in Beirut.
The British government is also banning Ansarul Islam, a jihadist group which emerged near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso in 2016, and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Britain currently has 74 international terrorist organizations proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000.
The European Union put the armed wing of Hizbullah on its terrorism blacklist in 2013, due to Hizbullah's alleged role in blowing up an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria. But unlike the United States, they had up till now differentiated between the group's military and political wings.
The group does not specifically divide itself into armed and political wings and its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has said the group does not operate as two wings.
The British ban comes as the United States is increasing its pressure on Hizbullah, placing several sets of sanctions on the group and its regional backer, Iran.
Last week, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon described what she labeled as Hizbullah's "growing" role in the new Lebanese cabinet as a threat to the country's stability. U.S. officials have also expressed concern that Hizbullah would exploit the ministries it runs to funnel money to fund the group's operations.