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MP Luciana Berger tells court she 'felt sick' over anti-Semitic blogs

A Labour MP "felt sick" and "very much under attack" when an internet troll targeted her with a series of anti-Semitic rants, a court heard.

Over four months, Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, 35, was allegedly harassed by Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 23, in five insulting articles calling her a "rat" and "evil money-grabber".

He launched the attack in support of a campaign for far-right "comrade" Garron Helm, who was jailed for four weeks in October 2014, the court heard.

Helm had admitted tweeting a picture of Ms Berger with a Star of David - a symbol of the German holocaust era - superimposed on her forehead with the hashtag "Hitler was right".

Giving evidence, Ms Berger said she found Bonehill-Payne's anti-Jewish posts "troubling" and she was "incredibly concerned".

She told jurors: "I felt sick really. It's attacking me for my faith or religion and not something I have said or done for my constituents."

Ms Berger went on to describe the effect of the "Filthy Jew Bitch campaign" which the defendant supported following Helm's jail sentence.

She told jurors she feared for her safety because "what happens online does not always stay online".

The MP said: "It's fair to say I was the most concerned I have ever been about my personal safety since I was elected.

"It was in the midst of this 'Filthy Jewish Bitch' campaign the police were in constant contact with me. They were in my office and home and assisted my personal safety.

"I had police patrolling outside my home and office. It was because of those patrols that a demonstration happened outside my office over a weekend in support of Garron Helm.

"I have received as an MP anti-Semitism since I was elected. The scale and body during this period, combined with articles, I felt very much under attack. It was all-consuming."

Ms Berger said extra security measures had been put in place, in part because of the online posts.

Some of the blogs were still on the internet, she said: "Even if you were convicted in this country, if it is an American website there is nothing you can do."

Through the wider campaign, Ms Berger said she had received death threats, tweets telling her to "watch my back", porn DVDs, and abusive messages on Facebook and Instagram from Britain and abroad.

Cross examining, James Palfrey suggested there were elements of his client's posts which were a "puerile attempt at satire".

But Ms Berger said: "My interpretation of it - it is clearly anti-Semitic."

Ms Berger told the court she did not regard images of her face on a rat as just "clumsy", as the barrister suggested, but "ugly".

Her former assistant and adviser Eve Byrne, who reported the blogs to police, told jurors: "I was horrified, shocked.

"I couldn't really believe that someone who does not know Luciana could write these things about her. They were obviously very graphic and disturbing and it was really upsetting."

Earlier, prosecutor Philip Stott told jurors that Bonehill-Paine shared a common ideology of "fierce anti-Semitism" with Helm.

He said: "Throughout the articles... Ms Berger is referred to by Mr Bonehill-Paine as, for example, a rodent, as evil, a money-grabber, a dominatrix and responsible for the death of Jesus."

The prosecutor told jurors that the defendant was expected to argue his posts were "reasonable in the circumstances" and fall within the bounds of "free speech and freedom of political expression".

Four of the blogs were posted on The Daily Bale (Britain Against Left-wing Extremism), which Bonehill-Paine founded, and another on his personal website.

The first post came seven days after Helm was sent down on October 20, 2014.

The final piece, on January 24 2015, was titled "The Legacy of Operation Filthy Jew Bitch".

Mr Stott told jurors: "Within it, Mr Bonehill-Paine celebrates the 2,500 plus tweets which Ms Berger received as a result of the campaign and urged that 'veterans of Operation Filthy Jew Bitch should be on stand-by for future operations'."

On being charged, Bonehill-Paine allegedly said: "I am really pleased. This gives me an opportunity to be found not guilty, hopefully at a full Crown Court trial, with the media that will bring."

On October 28 2014, Bonehill-Paine admitted six charges of sending "malicious communications" and one of harassment over posts on Twitter and the Daily Bale alleging that several people were paedophiles.

He was on bail awaiting sentence for the whole period he is alleged to have harassed Ms Berger and was handed a suspended sentence in February 2015, the court heard.

Labour MPs Ed and David Miliband, Jack Straw and Chuka Umunna were also highlighted by Bonehill-Paine, the court heard.

He allegedly ranted that if Mr Umunna was to become the first black prime minister, people should "be prepared to take back the country" by force.

Bonehill-Paine, of Yeovil, Somerset, denies racially aggravated harassment of Ms Berger between October 26 2014 and January 25 2015.

The Old Bailey trial was adjourned until Tuesday.


From Belfast Telegraph