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Stansted 15 spared jail, spark resistance

Sentencing prompts counter-trial and direct action

On 6 February, the 15 anti-deportation activists known as the ‘Stansted 15’ were sentenced for nonviolently stopping a deportation flight carrying 60 people to West Africa in March 2017. They had already launched an appeal against their convictions on 7 January, but this has yet to be heard. Their sentencing sparked a counter-trial and direct action in London.

Melanie Strickland (35), Ali Tamlit (30) and Eddie Thacker (29) were given nine-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months, because they were convicted of similar offences in 2016. The three also received community orders, along with the other 12.

Ali and Eddie have to complete 250 hours of unpaid work in the next year; 12 others were given 100 hours to do. Because of ill health, May Mackeith (33) was given a 20-day ‘rehabilitation activity requirement’ instead of unpaid work.

The suspended sentences mean that if Ali, Eddie or Melanie fail to do their community service, or do anything in the next year-and-a-half that leads to a criminal conviction, they will go to prison for nine months for the Stansted action (this would be in addition to the punishment they might receive for any second conviction).

The 15 had been facing the possibility of many years in prison after being convicted of ‘endangering safety at an aerodrome, contrary to section 1(2)(b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990’, anti-terrorist legislation which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Judge Christopher Morgan at Chelmsford crown court told the defendants: ‘In normal circumstances only a normal custodial sentence would have been justified in this case, but in your case I accept that your intentions were to demonstrate’.

Counter-trial

Following the Stansted 15 sentencing, on 11 February campaigners held a ‘People’s Trial’ outside the home office HQ in London and found the department guilty of ‘murder, torture, rape, rampant racism, and [the] upholding of neocolonial power’. They sentenced the home office to ‘ongoing direct action’ for its crimes.

Two days later, the same building was blockaded for three hours. According to End Deportations, workers were forced to queue next to fountains dyed red ‘representing the cruel and inhumane violence of deportations, detention centres and the hostile environment.’ Two people were arrested.

On 15 March, a group blockaded the immigration van centre at Eaton House in west London for six hours.

The coalition of groups organising the protests includes All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, End Deportations, Legal Action for Women, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Women Against Rape, Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike.

Among the coalition’s demands are: an end to detention, an immediate end to deportation charter flights; and an independent investigation into claims of rape and other sexual abuse against women in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre.

Swedish sentence

Swedish anti-deportation activist Elin Ersson, 21, also avoided prison recently. She was fined £251 by a district court in Gothenburg on 18 February for disrupting a deportation flight last July. Prosecutors had called for a prison sentence.

Elin booked a ticket on a Turkish Airlines flight she believed was being used to deport an Afghan asylum-seeker named Ismail Khawari to Afghanistan. Ismail was not on the plane, but another deportee (whose name has not been made public) was. Elin boarded the flight and refused to sit down, saying ‘I’m not going to sit down until this person is off the plane, because he will most likely get killed’ in Afghanistan.

Elin’s stand-up protest forced the authorities to take the asylum-seeker off the plane that day – both he and Ismail Khawari were deported later.

Elin livestreamed her protest on Facebook – the video has been viewed over five million times.

More info:
www.enddeportations.com
www.tinyurl.com/stansted15film

Topics: Trials | Refugees