By Róisín Kilroy
Activists known as The Stansted 15, have been found guilty of endangering an aerodome today, following their peaceful protest of what they deemed to be a unlawful deportation in March 2017.
The group disrupted the Home Office deportation of 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. The protest group used bolt cutters to gain entry into the airport, and proceeded to chain themselves to the wheel of the stationary plane, stopping it from taking flight.
The fifteen protesters are a part of activist group, End Deportations, which seeks to protest and campaign against deportations.
In a statement released by the group, they 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.”
One of the people due to be deported has also spoken out about the guilty verdict, saying: “There’s no doubt in my mind that these 15 brave people are heroes, not criminals. For me a crime is doing something that is evil, shameful or just wrong – and it’s clear that it is the actions of the Home Office tick all of these boxes – and the Stansted 15 were trying to stop the real crime being committed.”
Amnesty international have also blasted the ruling.
Kate Allen, International’s UK director has said ““Around the world, human rights defenders are coming under increasing attack. The UK should not be bringing such severe charges against those who seek to peacefully stand up for human rights.”
Sentencing is due to take place in February and the charge, which is often reserved for terrorist offences, can equal to a life sentence in some cases. In an ironic twist of fate, today is national Human Rights Day.
The decision has been blasted by politicians, activists and journalists on social media.