Three women who took to the streets of London just days after the Hamas terror attacks in Israel with images of paragliders on their clothes have been convicted of terror offenses but spared jail.
“You crossed the line, but it would have been fair to say that emotions ran very high on this issue”, said a London judge today, as he decided to not punish women who wore a terror symbol on their clothes shortly after the October Hamas attack.
Heba Alhayek, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, and Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27 put images of paragliders on their clothes and a sign at a pro-Palestine rally in London on October 14th. Just seven days before the Hamas terrorist organisation had used armed men deployed by paraglider to cross into Israel and launch the deadly attack that killed over 1,200 people.
Hamas is a ‘proscribed organisation’ — a banned group — in the United Kingdom, and showing or inviting support for it is against the law.
Several people were identified and arrested after that and other protests in London in the wake of the attack, as thousands took to the streets at demonstrations in support of Palestine. London’s Metropolitan Police had launched a media campaign to try and track down those who had attached hand glider images to themselves, and after arrests were made charges were laid in November.
The Criminal Prosecution Service said the women were charged under the Terrorism Act 2000, which bans images “in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion” that those carrying them are a “member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.” The CPS had said during the trial that: “The fact that these images were being displayed in the context of a protest opposing the Israeli response to the Hamas attacks demonstrates a glorification of the actions taken by the group…. Displaying these images could be viewed as celebrating the use of paragliders as a tactic to breach the Gaza Israel border, and creates a risk of encouraging others to support Hamas.”
Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram said, reports the BBC, that after the news reports of Hamas using paragliders to launch a deadly assault that: “I do not find a reasonable person would interpret the image merely as a symbol of freedom”. Yet despite the conviction under UK anti-terror law, the judge decided to let off the trio without punishment.
The judge said: “I want to be clear, there’s no evidence that any of these defendants are supporters of Hamas, or were seeking to show support for them… Your lesson has been well learned. I do not find you were seeking to show any support for Hamas” and gave them conditional discharges.
The lawyers for the women argued they had not worn paraglider images at all, and that a depiction of someone parachuting is seen as a “symbol of peace” by some, reports Sky News. They alleged, further, that London police had been misled by “an internet group with an agenda” who pushed a narrative.