Tory councillor arrested over stoning tweet

LONDON (Reuters) - A Conservative local politician has been arrested after he called for a female Muslim journalist to be stoned to death, a police source said on Thursday.

Birmingham councillor Gareth Compton was also suspended from the Conservative Party for saying Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a columnist for the Independent and Evening Standard, should be stoned.

Sky News reported Compton had said in a Twitter message: “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.” The message has since been deleted.

Alibhai-Brown told the Guardian she regarded Compton’s comments as incitement to murder.

“If I as a Muslim woman had tweeted that it would be a blessing if Gareth Compton was stoned to death I’d be arrested immediately,” she said.

Compton, in later Twitter messages, apologised for his remark, saying it had been an “ill-conceived attempt at humour.”

The councillor said he had been responding to comments made by Alibhai-Brown. He said she had told BBC Radio 5 Live that no politician had the right to comment on human rights abuses, even the stoning of women in Iran.

“I apologise for any offence caused. It was wholly unintentional,” Compton said.

West Midlands Police said they had arrested a 38-year-old man from Harborne in Birmingham under the 2003 Communications Act for sending an offensive or indecent message. They had subsequently released him on bail.

A Conservative Party spokesman said it had suspended Compton’s party membership indefinitely pending further investigation. “Language of this sort is not acceptable,” the spokesman said.

In September, Iranian authorities suspended the execution by stoning of a woman convicted of adultery after weeks of condemnation from around the world.

Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Karen Foster