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Two jailed for online racism after US turned down asylum bid

Freedom of speech claim denied

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Two British men who tried to claim political asylum in the US were jailed today for using the internet to incite racial hatred.

Simon Sheppard, 51 of Selby, North Yorkshire got four years and 10 months while Stephen Whittle, 42 of Preston got two years and four months. They were found guilty of 11 charges but the jury could not come to a verdict on seven others.

The two were originally arrested in 2006 but fled to the US. They arrived at LA airport and asked an official for political asylum believing they would get protection under US freedom of speech laws.

Instead they spent almost a year in Santa Ana City Jail in Orange County, AP reports. An immigration judge threw out their asylum application and recommended they be deported back to the UK.

Welcoming today's decision Adil Khan, Head of Diversity at Humberside Police said: “I welcome the decision by the jury to find Sheppard and Whittle guilty of a number of charges...Inciting racial hatred is a crime and one which seems to occur too regularly. This kind of material will not be tolerated as this lengthy investigation shows.

“These men were arrested in April 2006 by Humberside Police with the assistance of North Yorkshire Police and Lancashire Police and were charged with offences dating between 2004 and 2006."

The charge related to anti-semitic and racist material on a website the two controlled, which still appears to be available. The site published a Robert Crumb cartoon titled "When the goddamn jews take over America" alongside other less savoury material. ®

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