Christian evangelist awarded $11,000 for arrest; police apologize

Hatun Tash walks on a London sidewalk.
Hatun Tash walks on a London sidewalk. | YouTube/Christian Concern

The Metropolitan Police in London has apologized for falling "below standards" in the case of a Christian evangelist who was wrongfully arrested twice while preaching the Gospel at the city's Speakers' Corner. 

Hatun Tash, who critiques and debates the Quran and Islam at Central London's Speakers' Corner, has received £10,000 (about $11,304) in compensation and costs, the Christian Legal Centre announced Friday. 

In late September, Inspector of the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards Civil Actions Unit, Andy O'Donnell, sent Tash a letter formally apologizing for service that fell below the department's "requisite standard."

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"I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you for the distress that you have
suffered as a consequence of these incidents," O'Donnell wrote. "I hope that settlement of this claim and this recognition of the impact of what happened will enable you to put these incidents behind you." 

The police arrested Tash, the director of the ministry Defend Christ Critique Islam, in May 2021 and December 2020 at Speakers' Corner, a traditional site for public speeches and debates. 

In the first instance, Tash was assaulted, abused and harassed by a group of Islamic men for wearing a t-shirt featuring a picture of Muhammad while participating in weekly debates, according to the Christian Legal Centre, which represents Tash.

When officers asked the group to leave, they refused and continued to intimidate Tash, as was seen in a video. The officers then requested Tash to leave, and when she refused, they arrested her.

In the second instance, officers cited COVID-19 regulations to detain Tash after she encouraged officers not to hinder another preacher's right to free speech.

Two months later, Tash was stabbed in front of police at the same location by a man in a black Islamic robe in broad daylight. No arrest has been made, according to CLC.

"Police inaction has led to what happened to me," Tash told the media at the time. "It is heartbreaking that we live in a society where police do not want to arrest a Muslim for fear of being called Islamophobic."

Tash has donated the settlement payout to the CLC. She hopes this is "just the beginning of the police doing more to protect Christian freedoms and free speech at Speakers' Corner."

"The police have repeatedly taken away my rights and told me that they cannot protect me because they do not want to offend a certain group of people, which has been very disturbing.

"I believe Jesus Christ is the good news for Muslims, the police and the world. Police need to protect my rights as l tell others this good news. My hope is that many Muslims will come to faith in Jesus," she said in a statement. 

"More must be done to properly deal with Islamic violence and intimidation at Speakers' Corner. We don't live in Pakistan; we don't live in Saudi Arabia. I am Christian, and by default, I believe that Muhammad is a false prophet. I should be allowed to say that in the UK without being stabbed or repeatedly arrested."

In his apology letter, O'Donnell said that "MPS constantly strives to maintain the highest professional standards" but "incidents occasionally arise when the level of service falls below that standard."

"This pay-out to Hatun is a rare admission by the police that they got it wrong," CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement. "If Hatun is silenced by violence at Speakers' Corner, we are all silenced."

Last August, a court ruled that Hazel Lewis, a 50-year-old preacher arrested under the Public Order Act while preaching outside Finsbury Park tube station in North London last February, had not been threatening or abusing.

The accusation against the preacher included that she had made a child cry and used threatening language as she told one of the accusing men that he was "an advocate of Satan."

In July 2021, evangelist and missionary Ryan Schiavo was arrested in London for preaching that homosexuality is a sin. He later told The Christian Post that "things are getting very bad" in the United Kingdom and other Western countries.

Last May, Pastor John Sherwood, the 71-year-old minister of the Penn Free Methodist Church in north London, was arrested for preaching about the biblical definition of marriage being between one man and one woman from Genesis 1.

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