A UK Metropolitan Police officer has been convicted of being a member of an outlawed neo-Nazi group on Thursday and has been suspended from duty.
Benjamin Hannam, a 22 year-old probation officer in the force, was also found guilty of lying on his application and vetting forms by denying any association with a banned terrorist group and possessed documents which were extremist in nature.
“Ben Hannam obviously lied on his application form to join the Met. He would never have been able to join had we known then of his interest in the extreme right wing and his previous membership of National Action,” said Richard Smith, head of the counter-terrorism command.
“Once we identified his involvement with that organisation we took immediate steps to arrest him and put him before the court.” Smith added.
The convict had joined the far-right terrorist group National Action (NA) in 2016 where he took part in rallies and demonstrations with the group’s London branch.
Hannam, who had been working as a probation officer for two years, had been discovered on a leaked database that collated users from the far-right forum Iron March.
In a statement quoted by The Huffington Post, Hannam was eager to impress older members of the NA who provided him with free stickers and badges. The now-suspended officer told jurors that the ideology of fascism first appealed to him at the age of 16 and that he was attracted to its artwork and propaganda.
“I was under the impression this was some kind of youth network. I have never been stickering with NA nor have I done banner drops. I stuck to social activities. Most of the time was going to the pub and going for walks. Other times camping or going boxing.” Hannam said to the jury. He also denied any involvement with the group before and after it was banned.
Despite his claims of innocence, Hannam was known to have met high-profile individuals within the NA in the beginning of 2017 shortly after it was outlawed by the government and later that year he was filmed in a promotional video spray painting of a fascist NA symbol on a sewer drain.
The disgraced officer was also a frequent user of Iron March forum where he wrote he was “completely swayed” by the NA and attempted to recruit more members for the organization arguing that it is “always good for more people to join, means we can arrange more stuff which is just more fun for everybody!”
National Action was founded in 2013 by two right-wing extremists. The group has focused its ideology on neo-Nazism and has espoused hatred for Black, Asians and minority ethnic communities in the UK.
It has targeted communities from the white working class, recruiting mainly young people who have been affected by poverty and unemployment.
The extremist group was banned in late 2016 after leading a series of violent rallies and demonstrations that included praising the murder of the former Labour MP Jo Cox who was stabbed to death by a right-wing terrorist in the same year.
Source: Anadolu Agency