UK's Green party leader, Natalie Bennett said belonging to terrorist organisations should not be a
UK's Green party leader, Natalie Bennett said belonging to terrorist organisations should not be a "crime".Wikimedia Commons

Simply joining or belonging to a group such as the Islamic State (ISIS), al Qaeda, or the IRA is not a crime because people should not be punished for what they think, the UK's Green party leader, Natalie Bennett said on Sunday, stirring a controversy immediately.

She said that the legislation that made it a "crime" to simply belong to a certain organisation was outdated and that it was important for western countries to defend freedom of speech – which apparently includes the freedom to join or belong to terrorist organisations.

She made those comments during an interview with BBC's Sunday politics where she was asked whether the Green party policy was justified. She said that just belonging to a terrorist organisation or showing sympathy with its objectives or aims should not be a crime in itself unless the individuals, in actual fact, are involved in a crime.

"This is a part of our policy that I think dates back to the age of the ANC and apartheid South Africa," she said in the interview where she was pressed to defend her party's stance that allows people to be members of ISIS or al-Qaeda.

"What we want to do is make sure we are not punishing people for what they think or what they believe," she said in her controversial justification. "Obviously actions of inciting violence, supporting violence, those are absolutely unacceptable, illegal and should be pursued to the full extent of the law."

"What we are talking about is a principle that we shouldn't be punished for what you think. And we need to balance, we do not protect freedom by destroying it," she added.

Reacting to a Guardian article about Bennett's interview, an individual said, "So it's only a crime (once) you've pulled the trigger, or the pin? As has been said elsewhere - naive. And worst than naive - stupid."

Another user remarked, "We're in a time of wars. Those who assist terrorist organisations are criminals."