Avi Yemini, an emerging figure on the hard right of Australian ­politics, has warned that the unprecedented prosecution of three anti-Islam activists for religious vilification will push white ­nationalist groups underground with pot­entially dangerous ­consequences.

United Patriots Front chairman Blair Cottrell, Australia First Senate candidate Chris Shortis and Neil Erikson, a far-right provocateur, were convicted of inciting serious contempt, revulsion and ridicule of Muslim people by beheading a dummy as part of a protest against the construction of a mosque in Bendigo, Victoria. They are the first people convicted under an obscure provision of Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act introduced by the Bracks government in 2001.

Mr Yemini, a former Israeli army officer who has become the face of a muscular street campaign to combat crime in Melbourne, said although he had no sympathy for the white nationalist agenda of either the UPF or Australia First, he believed the prosecution was a stupid decision that would fuel support for such movements.

The prosecution followed multi­ple interventions by Facebook to remove hateful material and suspend pages controlled by the three activists and the UPF.

 

Read the full article by Chip Le Grand at The Australian (subscription only).

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