Socialist Worker

2.5 years in jail for London Gaza protesters

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2189

Seven people who took part in the protests against the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2009 were jailed last week.

Some were as long as two and a half years.

The judge said that the aim of his sentencing was to create a “deterrent effect”.

The length of the sentences went against the recommendations of the pre-sentence reports by the probation service.

The charges related to the demonstration on 10 January last year when police clashed with protesters outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, London.

The accused all pled guilty to violent disorder – they were accused of throwing placard sticks and pushing or kicking police.

Only one of the defendants has a previous conviction, and most are in full time education.

Mohammed El-Araj, aged 20, was sentenced to two years, despite a pre-sentence report which suggested that he recieve a community order.

He was on his first ever demonstration.

The judge, undeterred by this, said, “Such offences often involve young men such as you who are of otherwise of exemplary character.

“But the sentences given must act as a deterrent for those who may commit such offences in the future.”

He went on to say, “Peaceful protest is the hallmark of a truly democratic society. They may sometimes even be boisterous. But what happened on 10 January goes way beyond this and warranted a measured response from the police.”

Both the police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission have dismissed complaints lodged about violence committed by police on the protests.

However several individuals are bringing civil action cases against the police.

Deaths

Two of the accused were of Palestinian origin.

Mohammed Khawaja, 24, was dealing with the tragic loss of his two cousins, shot dead by Israeli soldiers on 29 December in Gaza.

One was shot in the head, the other in the back.

The youngest defendant on the day was Mohammed El-Hourari, aged 17.

He received a one-year jail sentence. He was 16 at the time of the demonstration.

It was clear that police relied heavily on CCTV and surveillance evidence to build their cases.

In the hearing of Mustafa Hassan, 19, police video showed a man they claimed to be the defendant being zoomed in on and filmed for around three minutes.

Two of the defendants were arrested at their homes in dawn raids.

Police arrested Ibrahim Obeseyeh at around 4.30am.

His door was knocked down and his sister and brother in law were handcuffed as police searched his house.

Relatives of other defendants said police broke down two “wrong doors” along the street before finding the home of the accused.

The arrests and charges have sent shockwaves through the families and communities of those involved.

The sentences are a disgrace. Demonstrators were protesting against brutal war crimes being committed by Israel on the people of Gaza.

It is vital that a strong and united movement – supporting the Muslim community and the right to protest – stands up to police brutality and any attempt to drive us off the streets.


Case is thrown out of court

A judge threw the case against protester Khalid Afeneh out of court last week.

Police accused Khalid of violent disorder.

They alleged that he threw a sand bag at police, causing an officer’s eardrum to perforate.

But information acquired through Freedom of Information Act requests shows that the injury was not cited on any logs of police injuries from the demonstration.

Khalid maintained his innocence and, unlike some other defendants, entered a not guilty plea at all of his hearings.

He was called to court on Tuesday of last week after his lawyer made repeated requests for evidence against his client.

The police still refused to produce any evidence when requested by Khalid’s solicitors. Determined not to give in, Khalid said that he was prepared to go to trial.

The judge then decided that there was no case to answer and threw it out.

Khalid’s case shows the importance of standing up to police allegations and not being bullied into pleading guilty.

Further sentencing will take place on Friday 19 and Friday 26 February from 10am at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, TW7 5LP (the nearest station is Isleworth).

Students from Kings College London Action Palestine and Stop the War societies are planning to attend the hearings to show solidarity and call for real justice.

They are inviting anyone who can to join them.


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Article information

News
Tue 16 Feb 2010, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2189
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