UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn took part in a Qatar conference hosted by a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated group and attended by a Hamas leader given seven life sentences.
Mr Corbyn described contributions by Hamas operatives, who were involved in the alleged murder of civilians in numerous attacks, as “fascinating and electrifying” in a 2012 column for a British newspaper.
He confirmed in an interview with the Iran government-owned Press TV that he had met with many Hamas “brothers” when he was in Doha for the 2012 seminar. Mr Corbyn was attending a two-day conference called “Palestinian Refugees in the Arab World”.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party said: “Jeremy has a long principled record of solidarity with the Palestinian people and engaging with actors in the conflict to support peace and justice in the Middle East. That is the right thing to do.”
The 2012 seminar was organised by the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, in conjunction with the Palestinian Return Centre. The PRC has links to Hamas and the global Muslim Brotherhood network, including its leader Youssef Qaradawi.
Among those in attendance were Husam Badran, who was jailed for terrorist attacks in Israel and now resides in Doha, according to a video obtained by The Telegraph.
Former Hamas politburo leader Khalid Mishaal, currently on a UK sanction list, was the most senior Hamas figure present. Dr Abdul Aziz Umar who was given seven life sentences for his role in a Jerusalem suicide bombing, was also present. He was released as part of the prisoner swap in 2011 for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped by Hamas for five years.
“You have to ask the question why they are in prison in the first place. I’m glad that those who were released were released,” Mr Corbyn told Press TV in 2012. “I met many of the brothers, including the brother who’s been speaking here when they came out of prison, when I was in Doha earlier this year,” he added. Mr Corbyn also said he had met Dr Umar numerous times.
The development is just the latest controversy to hit Mr Corbyn over recent weeks after images emerged of him attending a wreath laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014 in front of a plaque honouring the founder of Black September, the group behind the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Mr Corbyn said he was there to honour those killed in a 1985 Israeli air strike against the offices of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in Tunis.
Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party has faced widespread accusations of anti-Semitism – but is also facing pressure from both inside and outside of his party not to play down the impact of Israeli policies on the Palestinians.
"As Palestinians, we urge him not to give in to the forces which would like to silence legitimate criticism of Israel's racist policies and actions against our people and bury the crimes of Israel's past,” said Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK.