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Richard Dawkins calls for arrest of Pope Benedict XVI

Thanks to Detlef for the link.
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RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.

Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.

The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.

Benedict will be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian.

Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.

They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action.

The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court.
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-Comment #478580 by Richard Dawkins on April 11, 2010 at 8:48 am
Needless to say, I did NOT say "I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself.

What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope's proposed visit to Britain. Beyond that, I declined to comment to Marc Horme, other than to refer him to my 'Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope' article here:

Here is what really happened. Christopher Hitchens first proposed the legal challenge idea to me on March 14th. I responded enthusiastically, and suggested the name of a high profile human rights lawyer whom I know. I had lost her address, however, and set about tracking her down. Meanwhile, Christopher made the brilliant suggestion of Geoffrey Robertson. He approached him, and Mr Robertson's subsequent 'Put the Pope in the Dock' article in The Guardian shows him to be ideal:
The case is obviously in good hands, with him and Mark Stephens. I am especially intrigued by the proposed challenge to the legality of the Vatican as a sovereign state whose head can claim diplomatic immunity.

Even if the Pope doesn't end up in the dock, and even if the Vatican doesn't cancel the visit, I am optimistic that we shall raise public consciousness to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope's visit, let alone pay for it.


[UPDATE] Additional comments from Richard

176. Comment #478714 by Richard Dawkins on April 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I have just submitted the following comment to the Sunday Times page where the article is published. It will be interesting to see whether the moderators allow it.
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216. Comment #478823 by Richard Dawkins on April 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm
It is now more than five hours since I submitted my Comment to the Sunday Times website, stating that their headline is a damaging lie.

Alas, they seem to be living up to the stereotype of a Murdoch paper. So far, they have not published it. Several colleagues have been trying to post similar comments, pointing out the error. With the same result. As far as I can see, in all of the 623 Comments on the Sunday Times website, not a single one alludes to the fact that the Headline is false, while a huge number are abusive precisely because they do not realise that the headline is false.


[UPDATE 4/12]
At long last, and only by dint of phoning Marc Horne, the reporter himself, I finally managed to get the Sunday Times to notice their libellous headline and so something about it. Implying, as it did, that I was personally planning to ambush the Pope with a pair of handcuffs in my pocket, one might have thought it too absurd to be taken seriously. Nevertheless it was taken seriously and spawned a great deal of vitriolic abuse on the Sunday Times website, which would not have been provoked by Marc Horne's article itself. The new headline is at least an improvement.




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