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Three individuals have been convicted of committing an act of terrorism by showing pictures of paragliders during a pro-Palestine protest in London, following a deadly attack by Hamas in Israel.
Heba Alhayek, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, affixed photos of paragliders to their backs, while Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, attached one to a placard handle. This occurred seven days after Hamas militants used paragliders to cross into Israel from Gaza on October 7th.
They were accused of violating the Terrorism Act by possessing or exhibiting an item that could reasonably lead to suspicion that they are affiliated with the prohibited group Hamas, a claim they refuted.
The attorney for two of the accused claimed that the police’s interpretation of the events was incorrect and that the visuals were actually of cartoon parachutes, a widely recognized symbol of peace in nationalist circles.
After a two-day trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the trio was convicted on Tuesday when prosecutors argued that it was not a coincidence that they were sharing the images shortly after the attack.
Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram stated in his ruling that Hamas had entered Israel seven days prior, utilizing paragliders as reported by the media. A rational individual would have been aware of this information.
I do not believe that a rational individual would see the image solely as a representation of liberty. Let me make it clear that there is no proof that any of these defendants are affiliated with Hamas or were trying to express support for them.
Mr Ikram stated that he had chosen not to penalize the defendants and instead gave each of them a 12-month conditional discharge.
“You have overstepped, however, it would have been just to acknowledge that emotions were intense regarding this matter,” he stated. “You have now learned your lesson well.”
“I do not find you were seeking to show any support for Hamas.”
According to the court, Alhayek and Ankunda turned themselves in to the Croydon Police Station after the Metropolitan Police used social media to seek their whereabouts.
According to the court, the duo initially stated that an unknown person at the protest had placed the images on their backs, but later confessed to being the ones who attached the images themselves.
During the interrogation, Taiwo stated that he had been given the placard and did not pay much attention to the unclear image displayed on it, as reported by the court.
On Monday, journalist Victoria Brittain, a patron of Palestine Solidarity, testified that a parachute is a common symbol among Palestinians, representing flight and escape from imprisonment.
During the October protest, Ms. Brittain witnessed the use of balloons and kites with similar significance. However, when asked by the prosecution, she stated that she did not observe any visuals of parachutes during the march.
Nick Price from the Crown Prosecution Service stated after the ruling: “The three women knowingly exhibited pictures of paragliders in central London, indicating their backing of Hamas – an outlawed terrorist group.”
The images were shown during a protest against Israel’s retaliation to Hamas attacks, indicating an admiration for the group’s actions.
Showing these pictures may be perceived as glorifying the utilization of paragliders as a strategy to cross the Gaza/Israel border, and poses a potential danger of promoting support for Hamas.
PA provided additional reporting