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Man who gave a home to Liverpool bomber ‘knew Bible meetings targeted by fake converts’

Written by on November 17, 2021

The former lay minister who gave a home to Liverpool bomber Emad al Swealmeen was aware that his Bible meetings were being targeted by Muslims pretending to convert to Christianity.

Malcolm Hitchcott, who was assistant leader of Liverpool Cathedral’s Iranian ministry, told an appeal tribunal: “I am aware that there are some asylum seekers who attend church with the sole purpose of advancing their asylum claims.”

Court records show Mr Hitchcott had refused to baptise one asylum seeker and had identified several who were only pretending to have renounced their faith.

Apostasy is punishable by death in some regimes based on a strict interpretation of Islam, and asylum seekers can use conversion to Christianity as evidence of likely persecution should they be deported.

Deputy upper tribunal judge Gaenor Bruce said Mr Hitchcott “understands that some Iranians might pretend to have found Jesus in order to support a false claim for asylum”.

Judge Bruce summarised Mr Hitchcott’s 2015 evidence in an appeal of an Iranian asylum seeker who had been baptised at Liverpool Cathedral.

Al Swealmeen Sourced by Adam Parker
Image: Emad al Swealmeen died inside the car when an explosive device went off in Sunday’s attack

“He has personally refused to come to court for other Iranians who attend the cathedral and has also refused to baptise someone,” she wrote.

More on Liverpool Terror Attack

She said attempts at bogus conversions were “something that he and other clergy and staff at the cathedral, are very aware of”.

The judge said the number of Iranians attending the cathedral was “improbably large” for them all to be genuine converts.

Liverpool Cathedral has 'robust processes' for verifying genuine converts, said a statement
Image: Liverpool Cathedral has ‘robust processes’ for verifying genuine converts, said a statement

The court heard that the “Alpha” conversion courses Mr Hitchcott helped to run at the cathedral were so popular with Middle Eastern asylum seekers that clergy found it difficult to cope with the paperwork.

The Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox is recorded as telling an appeal hearing in 2015: “For the vast majority of asylum seekers the cathedral will not be able to attend their tribunal hearings, due to the demands of running the very busy cathedral.”

Aerial view of damaged car being removed by forensic officer after the explosion at the Liverpool Women's Hospital that killed one person and injured another on Sunday. Suspected terrorist Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, died after the device exploded in a taxi shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday. Picture date: Wednesday November 17, 2021.
Image: The car that exploded outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital was removed on Wednesday

The court was told one asylum seeker, whose appeal was allowed on the grounds he was now a Christian, had referred another five Iranians to the cathedral’s conversion course.

Mr Hitchcott, a former army officer, told the court he could tell when a Muslim asylum seeker had genuinely renounced their faith.

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CCTV: Moments before and after taxi explosion

Judge Bruce allowed at least two appeals, saying she was convinced that clergy at the cathedral had correctly assessed that the conversion of asylum seekers to Christianity was a genuine change of faith.

Mr Hitchcott and the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, declined to speak to Sky News.

In a written statement, the diocese of Liverpool said: “Liverpool Cathedral has developed robust processes for discerning whether someone might be expressing a genuine commitment to faith.

“These include requirements for regular attendance alongside taking part in a recognised Christian basics course.

“We would expect someone to be closely connected with the community for at least two years before we would consider supporting an application.”

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