Bahar Mustafa, the Goldsmiths student diversity officer who was due to appear in court after allegedly tweeting the hashtag #killallwhitemen, has had charges against her dropped.
The 28-year-old from Edmonton, north-east London, was to appear at Bromley magistrates court on Thursday charged with sending a communication conveying a threatening message and with sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network.
The CPS could yet reverse the decision however, and are currently reviewing the charges after an appeal by a complainant, under the victim’s right to review scheme.
Police confirmed to the Guardian on Tuesday that the case had been discontinued. The charges had been widely criticised by free-speech groups in a social media campaign using the hashtag #istandwithbaharmustafa when the charges were announced last month.
A Crown Prosecution Service letter sent on 26 October told Mustafa: “The decision to discontinue these charges has been taken because there is not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.” Mustafa may now apply for her costs to be paid.
Her solicitor, Mike Schwarz, told the Guardian: “The decision first to prosecute and then to climb down so soon afterwards, made by the Crown Prosecution Service headquarters, calls into question their ability to make sensible judgments on delicate issues.”
But in a statement just hours after it was reported the charges had been dropped, prosecutors signalled a possible u-turn. A CPS spokesman said: “Following the decision to discontinue this case, one of the complainants has now requested a review of this decision. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this case until this process has been completed.”
Mustafa initially sparked a racism row when she asked white men not to attend a students’ union meeting intended for minority ethnic women and non-binary attendees. Her critics unearthed old tweets from her account and accused her of using the hashtag #killallwhitemen.
The diversity officer is neither an employee of Goldsmiths nor a student, but an employee of the independent students’ union, elected by union members. She remained in her position as welfare and diversity officer after a petition for a motion of no confidence fell short of the 3% of union members required to trigger a poll.
Mustafa has denied her initial request for white men to stay away from a union meeting was racist or sexist, and said in a video statement posted at the time of the first incident that she had received multiple death threats after the row.
“I, as an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender,” she said. “Since the media storm, I have received death and rape threats, racial and gendered abuse, and had journalists from rightwing publications come to my home where my family live.”
Robert Sharp of the writers’ association English PEN welcomed the decision to drop the charges.
“The tweets were never a credible threat and while Ms Mustafa might have offended some people, that alone should never be enough for prosecution,” he said.
“It’s a shame this investigation took so long to conclude, but the police are working with laws that are no longer fit for purpose. These charges were brought under communications legislation that was written for fax machines, not social media. The law needs an urgent update.”