SDT rules that solicitor posted antisemitic tweets

SDT: Sanctions ruling on Friday

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) yesterday upheld allegations that a solicitor published antisemitic and offensive posts on social media and also abused Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) staff.

The conduct of Farrukh Najeeb Husain was reported to the regulator by leading law firm Bevan Brittan, where he was working as a self-employed consultant to deliver on a particular client mandate in spring 2021.

Some of the key tweets were directed at Simon Myerson KC, a Jewish barrister, and Hugo Rifkind, a Jewish journalist at The Times.

The SDT hearing has been held over several days since September. Upholding the allegations, the tribunal chair confirmed that it had found some, but not all, of the tweets that were offensive and/or inappropriate also to be antisemitic.

A decision on sanction will be given on Friday. Which tweets fell into which category will only be set out in the full ruling, likely to be published some weeks later.

In its rule 12 statement – setting out its case to the tribunal – the SRA alleged that, as well as being “plainly inappropriate, offensive, pejorative, puerile and derogatory”, some of the tweets aimed at Mr Myerson could be considered to be antisemitic as well.

Mr Husain frequently used the word ‘Zionist’ as a synonym or substitute for ‘Jew’, it said, while he used words used by the Nazis, such as ‘Untermensch’ and ‘Lebensraum’.

“The use of these terms associated with Nazism would have upsetting associations for Jews (not just Zionists) and were of course terms or principles/policies used towards Jews (not just Zionists) by the Nazis when perpetrating the Holocaust,” the SRA said.

“If the respondent was seeking to make a comparison to seek to demonstrate that Israel was treating Palestinians in the same way that the Nazis had historically treated Jews, it is reasonable to infer that the use of comparisons so closely associated with historic antisemitic violence was deliberate in order to offend the recipients (including Mr Myerson KC) not only as Zionists (as claimed to be by the respondent) but also as Jews.”

Though Mr Husain insisted to the SRA that he was anti-Zionist but not antisemitic, the SRA argued that he appeared “to conflate antisemitism, anti-Zionism and opposition to the Israeli government and in fact lead to him demonstrating hostility towards Jews because they are Jewish”.

Among the comments aimed at Mr Rifkind were that he was “a Zionist pig supporting theft of Palestine for his Eastern European kin” with other tweets referring to Israel as “ShitRael” and asking if he was “just mentally retarded as a racist?”

According to the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) – whose director of investigations and enforcement, Stephen Silverman, gave expert witness evidence to assist the SRA – Mr Husain made several accusations against the SRA and Capsticks, the law firm acting for it, throughout the case.

It said he claimed that the SRA was “weaponising new antisemitism” and subverting the International Definition of Antisemitism, and accused the regulator of being “in bed” with the CAA.

“He also claimed that the solicitor acting on behalf of the SRA was an ‘imperialist’ and asserted that she ‘bang[ed] on about the Holocaust because [she] wants to hide [her] country’s own crimes,’ apparently referring to her British heritage.”

The CAA said that, during cross-examination, Mr Husain described Mr Myerson as “a fascist” and also attacked Mr Silverman.

The SRA accused Mr Husain of publishing tweets on other subjects that made “offensive or pejorative comments relating to others’ race and religion, making sexually explicit comments, using language intended to shock”.

Further, Mr Husain sent the SRA’s investigating officer “offensive emails when he was displeased with the course of the SRA’s investigation”, such as one saying: “You are a Zionist apologist and fascist like ur organisation – look forward to the McCarthyite show trial.”

He suggested that the officer was “a Sikh Punjabi” who was “angry about comments made on twitter by me about the Sikh national hero Ranjit Singh as a rapist of Muslim women”.

A CAA spokesperson said: “We welcome this judgment. Farrukh Najeeb Husain’s rhetoric online was vile, and there was no evidence of any regard or remorse for the hurt and disgust that he caused.

“The SRA was right to bring this case to restore confidence in the legal profession, and we were pleased to be able to contribute expert opinion at the hearing in order to inform the panel and bring about today’s decision.”

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