On Monday the 19th of March, the trial of fifteen people involved in disrupting a Titan Airways deportation flight from Stansted airport in March 2017 began at Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex, UK. If found guilty, the maximum sentence they face is life imprisonment.
The fifteen defendants, from a coalition of three groups (End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, and Plane Stupid), sought to halt a deportation charter flight carrying 57 people to Nigeria by using tube lock-ons and a tripod to prevent the airplane from taking off. Their actions caused a 48-hour delay to the flight, which gave 34 of the 57 people scheduled to be deported time to pursue appeals and to be taken off the flight.
This action is the first time that a deportation charter flight has been prevented from leaving the UK through direct action on the runway, exposing a weakness in the British Home Office’s deportation infrastructure that could lead to future successful actions. It is also the first time that anti-terror legislation is being utilised to prosecute the use of non-violent direct action to halt a deportation charter flight from the UK. By threatening the Stansted 15 with the possibility of life imprisonment the British government wants to send a strong message and discourage meaningful resistance to their hostile environment. They do not want anyone to challenge the legally dubious and repugnant “deport first, appeal later” approach that the British Home Office is using.
From 8:30am on Monday 19th of March, people will be rallying outside Chelmsford Crown Court to support the defendants and to call for an end to all deportations. The trial is expected to last 4-6 weeks and the public gallery will be open during this time.
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