Solidarity with the Stansted 15 protest, December 2018 Solidarity with the Stansted 15 protest, December 2018. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

The victory for the Stansted 15 in overturning their convictions is a step forward against the attempts to criminalise protest, writes Shabbir Lakha

The Stansted 15 activists who stopped a deportation flight in 2017 have had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal. Their exoneration is a huge victory for these brave individuals as well as for the whole movement and the right to protest.

The group were convicted of terrorism-related offences for their protest in Stansted airport which stopped a charter flight bound for West Africa. It was absurd that they were charged with a rarely-used law that was created in the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing in the first place and on Friday the Lord Chief Justice agreed.

As Amnesty International has pointed out, their conviction is part of a disturbing pattern of targeting activists acting in solidarity with migrants and refugees across Europe, including the arrest of German sea captain Carola Rackete.

What’s more is that the activists have been completely vindicated for their actions. 11 of the people who were meant to be deported on the flight remain in the UK today, and one was a victim of human trafficking.

The government was recently found to have broken the law with its racist hostile environment, and evidence has been found of deportation targets which breed a culture of looking for “low-hanging fruit” in the Home Office.

It has also been part of a political agenda set by the Tory government to criminalise protest and silence dissent. This includes banning Extinction Rebellion protests and then fining the organisers £10,000 each, the inclusion of peace and environmental campaign groups on anti-terrorism literature, the prosecution of the Colston Four and the government’s attempt to ban ‘anti-capitalist teaching materials’ and critical race theory in schools.

The victory for the Stansted 15 is a significant step against growing government authoritarianism. The bravery and perseverance of these activists should be remembered in the fight still ahead against the ongoing hostile environment and deportations of black people, and against the authoritarian state, from Prevent to Spy Cops.

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Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.

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