‘History will be on their side’: Owen Jones speaks out against Stansted 15 convictions

Owen Jones spoke out at a protest yesterday in support of the 15 people found guilty of an aviation offence after locking themselves to a deportation plane in Stansted airport.

On March 28 2017 the group, now known as the Stansted 15, stopped takeoff by cutting a 3ft by 3ft hole in the airport’s perimeter fence and locking themselves to the chartered plane due to deport 60 undocumented immigrants to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

After a nine-week trial, a Chelmsford Crown Court jury found the group guilty on Monday of endangering the safety of the airport, an offence that can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Mr Jones joined the hundreds of people who gathered outside the Home Office on Tuesday to protest the decision.

He said: “I’m here to show solidarity with the Stansted 15. I know some of them, one of them has been a friend of mine for many years. I’m very proud of them. They stand in the great tradition that exists in this country of peaceful direct action against injustice.

“The fact that for so many years migrants, Muslims and refugees have been relentlessly scapegoated and blamed for all the injustices caused by those people at the top is unacceptable.

“We need to show solidarity with people who flee violence including violence partly caused by our own government.”

The defendants believed the deportees were at risk of persecution, torture and death should they be removed from Britain.

The 15 were all part of End Deportations, a group dedicated to publicising and campaigning against deportations. They, along with the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, held the demonstration on Tuesday.

Mr Jones added: “History will be on their side. It will damn those on the other side.”

The group’s legal team has since started preparing an appeal.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We only return those with no legal right to remain in the UK, including foreign national offenders and failed asylum seekers.

“We expect people to leave the country voluntarily but, where they do not, the Home Office will seek to enforce their departure.”

Amnesty International UK say ten of the individuals due to be deported are pursuing asylum claims in the UK and at least one has been granted permission to remain in the country.

Amnesty International UK’s director Kate Allen said: “The conviction is a crushing blow for human rights in the UK.

“The terrorism-related charge against these individuals was always a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

While the law used to charge the 15 is not part of the Terrorism Acts, they were found guilty under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act, a law protesters say was passed in response to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

“This whole case will send a shiver down the spine of anyone who cares about the right to protest in our country,” added Ms Allen.

The defendants are: Helen Brewer, 28; Lyndsay Burtonshaw, 28; Nathan Clack, 30; Laura Clayson, 28; Melanie Evans, 35; Joseph McGahan, 35; Benjamin Smoke, 27; Jyotsna Ram, 33; Nicholas Sigsworth, 29; Melanie Strickland, 35; Alistair Tamlit, 30; Edward Thacker, 29; Emma Hughes, 38; May McKeith, 33 and Ruth Potts, 44.

The 15 will be sentenced in February.

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