LONDON (AP) — A British man has been charged with using social media to incite racial hatred after posting anti-Muslim tweets in the days after the Brussels attacks.
Matthew Doyle was charged Friday after more than a day of questioning by police. The 47-year-old is scheduled to appear in court Saturday.
He is charged with publishing or distributing written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting and likely or intended to stir up racial hatred
Doyle had tweeted about confronting a Muslim woman in the Croydon area of south London and asking her views on the Brussels attacks. He said she replied that the attacks had nothing to do with her, a response he described as “mealy mouthed.”
He later used an anti-Muslim epithet to describe her.
His tweets drew wide attention, with many mocking him for confronting a Muslim woman in London about the deadly attacks carried out Tuesday by Islamic extremists in Belgium that left 31 dead.
British law protects freedom of speech, but the Crown Prosecution Service says a person can be charged with inciting racial hatred if they say or do something which is “threatening, abusive or insulting and, by doing so, either intends to stir up racial hatred, or makes it likely that racial hatred will be stirred up.”
Prosecutors say stirring up “hatred” is a high legal bar and that the attorney general has to approve every case before charges can be filed.
Doyle quickly deleted both tweets but the images of the postings were captured and retweeted many times.
He was taken in for questioning shortly after the tweets appeared Wednesday.
Police and political leaders have warned of a possible surge in hate crimes against British Muslims in response to the Brussels attack.
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