It was a moment of reprieve for Nigerian preacher, Mr. Oluwole Ilesanmi, who was stopped from expressing his Christian views and driven four miles away by the police, as he was awarded a £2,500 payout for his wrongful arrest. The United Kingdom (UK) police, however, refused to apologise for taking him away from the tube station where he was arrested.
The 64-year-old Ilesanmi was accused of Islamophobia while preaching outside Southgate Tube station in London in February. He was approached by two officers after a passer-by called police accusing him of hate speech.
Ilesanmi, a former dentist, admits describing Islam as an ‘aberration’ but said he was expressing his point of view as a Christian rather than denigrating Muslims, the Mail on Sunday reported.
A video of his confrontation with police and subsequent arrest went viral and has been viewed by over three million times online. In the video a policeman takes his Bible away. One of the police officers claims Ilesanmi was disturbing the peace, saying: ‘No one wants to hear that. They want you to go away.’
He was driven miles away and then released. The Met said they offered him a lift back. Scotland Yard said it has agreed to pay Ilesanmi £2,500 for wrongful arrest and his humiliating and distressing treatment.
A Met spokesman said: “The Met respects and upholds the rights of all individuals to practise freedom of speech, and this includes street preachers of all religions and backgrounds. However, if the language someone uses is perceived as being a potential hate crime, it is only right that we investigate. In this case, it was deemed appropriate to remove the man from the area.”
On Tuesday, Ilesanmi will hand a petition to the Home Office, signed by 38,000 people, asking for greater protection for street preachers. Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, is also writing to Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police chief, raising concerns that officers are too quick to silence preachers.