Three guilty of terror offence over paraglider images at UK Palestine march | Protest

Three people who displayed images of paragliders at a pro-Palestinian march in central London a week after Hamas militants went on a bloody rampage in Israel have been found guilty of a terror offence.

Heba Alhayek, 29, Pauline Ankunda, 26, and Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, were each given a 12-month conditional discharge.

Deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram told them: “You crossed the line, but it would have been fair to say that emotions ran very high on this issue. Your lesson has been well learned.”

The three were not seeking to show support for Hamas, he said.

Alhayek and Ankunda attached images of paragliders to their backs with tape, while Taiwo stuck one to the handle of a placard.

They displayed the images on 14 October 2023, a week after militants from Hamas used paragliders to enter Israel from Gaza on 7 October. About 1,200 Israelis were killed in the attack and about 240 were abducted and taken to Gaza.

The three protesters were charged under the Terrorism Act with carrying or displaying an article to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are supporters of a banned organisation, Hamas, which they denied.

After a two-day trial at Westminster magistrates court, the three were found guilty on Tuesday after prosecutors argued it was “no coincidence” the defendants were displaying the images so soon after the attack.

Ikram said: “Seven days earlier, Hamas went into Israel with what was described by the media as paragliders. A reasonable person would have seen and read that.

“I do not find a reasonable person would interpret the image merely as a symbol of freedom.

“I want to be clear, there’s no evidence that any of these defendants are supporters of Hamas, or were seeking to show support for them.”

Ikram said he had “decided not to punish” the defendants as he handed them each a 12-month conditional discharge.

Reacting to the verdict, the Crown Prosecution Service said displaying the images amounted to the “glorification of the actions” of Hamas.

Lawyers for the three had suggested they were actually displaying images of a parachute emoji rather than paragliders, and claimed police had “mistaken” what they saw that day.

Mark Summers KC, for Alhayek and Ankunda, said the idea that the image was a paraglider started with “an internet group with an agenda”. He also argued that flying-related images were a common symbol of peace in the region.

After the Metropolitan police launched a social media appeal to identify the protesters, Alhayek and Ankunda handed themselves in to Croydon police station, the court heard.

In a police interview, the pair initially claimed someone at the demonstration “who was not known to them” had stuck the images to their backs, before changing their statements, admitting they had attached them themselves, the court was told.

When arrested and interviewed under caution, Taiwo said she had been handed the placard and not paid proper attention to the “blurry image” it displayed, the court heard.


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