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Stansted Activists Convicted For Deportation Protest

Stansted Activists Convicted For Deportation Protest

Stansted Airport Protestors

A group of fifteen human rights campaigners who stopped a government deportation flight from leaving Stansted Airport have been convicted of aviation security offences.

The activists, known as the Stansted 15, cut through the airport’s perimeter fence in March last year and attached themselves to the nose and wing of a plane carrying people who had received deportation orders to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

A jury in Chelmsford Crown Court found the group guilty of disrupting flights and “endangering an aerodrome.”

The campaigners however, who were protesting “inhumane deportations,” say that the charges represent an “unprecedented use of terror law to crack down on peaceful protest.”

The flight which was stopped had been chartered to deport roughly sixty people from the UK, with the defendants saying they had information that one female deportee risked being killed by her husband on return, whilst two others were victims of human trafficking.

The CPS denies claims that the charges were terrorism-related.

The prosecution successfully argued that the actions of protesters – which involved using bolt cutters, chains and expandable foam tubes and lying for hours on the tarmac – had placed the safety of airport staff and passengers at risk.

Lockerbie law found to apply regardless of motivation

The Stansted 15 argued in court that the legislation used to convict them should not have applied, as they were not motivated by terrorism but by a desire to protect the human rights of those they believed were being wrongfully or illegally deported.

Under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, it is a criminal offence to disrupt flight service at an aerodrome. The law was passed in the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 – a terrorist incident which left 259 passengers and 11 pedestrians dead.

The activists said: “We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm” and maintained that their actions had opened a “window into the reality of people being deported unfairly, and into circumstances where their lives and liberty are at risk.”

Both the prosecution and the judge, however, rejected claims that the statute should not apply on the basis of the defendant’s motivation. Judge Christopher Morgan directed the jury to disregard all evidence from the defendants on the basis of motivation and instead to only consider whether their actions presented a “real and material” risk to the airport.

A spokesperson for the CPS echoed these sentiments, stating:

“The charge used in this case is from the Aviation and Maritime Security Act of 1990 and applies to those who intentionally disrupt service at an aerodrome, regardless of their motivation.”

Charities, MPs decry use of ‘terror law’ on ‘peaceful’ protestors

The verdict was described by Amnesty International as a “crushing blow for human rights in the UK.”

The charity’s UK director Kate Allen said it was:

“deeply disturbing that peaceful protesters who caused disruption but at no time caused harm to anyone, should now be facing a possible lengthy prison sentence.”

Similar views were expressed by fellow charity Liberty, as well as by politicians including Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

Labour politician and shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said that the law should not apply so that:

“non-violent protesters are prosecuted for defending the Refugee Convention, and are treated like terrorists.”

She added that if elected to government, Labour would “review the statute book to better guarantee the right to peaceful dissent.”

Eleven of those who were aboard the plane and due to be deported have now been granted legal status in the UK.

The defendants, who are aged between 27 and 44 years old, will be sentenced in February.

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