Demonstrators take part in an antisemitism protest outside the Labour Party headquarters in central London, Britain April 8, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SIMON DAWSON)
LONDON - Britain's opposition Labour Party must explain allegations of antisemitism that have been lodged against it, the country's equality watchdog said on Thursday, escalating a crisis that contributed to lawmakers splitting from the party last month.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it wanted to hear from Labour before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation.
Labour has faced accusations of antisemitism for over two years. Nine lawmakers quit the party last month citing the leadership's handling of antisemitism in the party, as well as its Brexit stance, as their reason for leaving.
Last week, Labour suspended a lawmaker who is close to party leader Jeremy Corbyn and said it would investigate his conduct after remarks he made over the party’s handling of antisemitism accusations.
"Having received a number of complaints regarding antisemitism in the Labour Party, we believe the Labour Party may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs," the commission said in a statement.
"Our concerns are sufficient for us to consider using our statutory enforcement powers ... we are now engaging with the Labour Party to give them an opportunity to respond."
A Labour spokesperson said the party rejected any suggestion that it acted unlawfully and would cooperate fully with the commission, which upholds Britain's equality laws.
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