Britain may use mediaeval treason law

2014-10-17 19:03
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London - Britain may use a mediaeval law dating to 1351 to charge citizens with treason if they go to fight with Islamic State insurgents in Iraq and Syria, says Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that the Islamic State, whose fighters have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq, pose a grave threat to Britain while police and intelligence officers say they have seen a rise in potentially deadly plots.

Security officials say about 500 Britons - largely with Muslim immigrant backgrounds - are believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria, though the true figure could be much greater. Security officials worry that those who return could carry out an attack on Britain.

Hammond said any British citizen who had sworn personal allegiance to the so-called Islamic State could have committed an offence under the Treason Act of 1351, which was passed during the reign of English King Edward III.

"We have seen people declaring that they have sworn personal allegiance to the so-called Islamic State," Hammond told parliament.

"That raises questions about their loyalty and allegiance to this country and about whether the offence of treason could have been committed," he said, adding he would bring the issue to the attention of Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May.

The ISIS supporters have released videos of the beheading of two American and two British men that feature a masked, black-clad militant brandishing a knife and speaking with an English accent who has been dubbed "Jihadi John" by British media.

The maximum sentence for treason in Britain is life imprisonment; it was death until 1998.


The last person to be hanged for treason in Britain was William Joyce, a propagandist for Nazi Germany nicknamed Lord Haw Haw who broadcast to Britain during World War Two and who was executed in 1946.


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