On trial for stopping a plane
08 November, 2018 — By John Gulliver
A PACKED public gallery – including film star Vanessa Redgrave and the Bishop of Chelmsford – heard the start of the defence on Monday by 15 activists charged under anti-terrorism laws with trying to stop a plane leaving Stansted airport with immigrants destined for Nigeria and Ghana.
They had locked themselves with metal poles against the plane in March 2017.
It is a significant case because the severe nature of the charge carries a long jail sentence.
When the protesters were first charged they had faced a relatively lesser offence of the equivalent of aggravated obstruction but this was changed by the Attorney General last autumn.
The trial at Chelmsford began two weeks ago but legal arguments delayed the full hearing.
The protesters – most of them are professional people, one with a PhD – plead not guilty and argue that the deportees faced persecution in West Africa.
The defence team includes solicitor Raj Chada, a senior lawyer at Hodge, Jones and Allen of Euston and a former leader of Camden Council.