The nature of the charges could lead to lengthy sentences.
During a lengthy trial, the 15 activists from End Deportations group admitted that they trespassed at Stansted airport and performed a lock-on around a plane chartered by the Home Office to deport 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. Initially, the activists were charged with aggravated trespass, which later was changed to “endangering safety at aerodromes”: a serious terror charge. The activists denied this charge and said they took the non-violent action in order to prevent a breach of human rights.
Last week, the judge in the trial instructed the jury not to consider the argument of necessity defence- where defendants admit breaking the law but say they did so to prevent greater harm- and asked the jury to instead focus on the direct action putting the safety of the airport and passengers at risk and causing serious disruption to international air travel.
In a statement the defendants said:
We are guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm. The real crime is the government’s cowardly, inhumane and barely legal deportation flights and the unprecedented use of terror law to crack down on peaceful protest. We must challenge this shocking use of draconian legislation, and continue to demand an immediate end to these secretive deportation charter flights and a full independent public inquiry into the government’s ‘hostile environment’.
Justice will not be done until we are exonerated and the Home Office is held to account for the danger it puts people in every single day. It endangers people in dawn raids on their homes, at detention centres and on these brutal flights. The system is out of control. It is unfair, unjust and unlawful and it must be stopped.
The 15 activists will be sentenced on 4th February. They were released on bail, but face up to life imprisonment. Due to their action, 11 people out of 60 who were onboard of the Home Office plane are still in the UK.
Photo via Reclaim the Power