Two young women who took part in protests in solidarity with Gaza in January last year have been sentenced to 15 months in prison for “vandalising a branch of Starbucks”.
While the people whose decisions brought death to hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are free to do as they please, those who have protested against war are facing a police clampdown.
Layla Lahouidek, 19, and Bana Hablegiorge, 20, were charged with violent disorder – a charge that is usually reserved for serious offences.
Layla was arrested at her home in June last year, six months after the event.
She and Bana were captured on CCTV in the cafe on Shaftsbury Avenue in central London after protesting against Israel’s war on Gaza.
They are just two among over 70 people arrested and charged after the protests last year.
Many of the charges are for violent disorder, with some of the accused as young as 12.
Most are aged between 15 and 19.
Some of the defendants were arrested in dawn raids on their homes and questioned by police without legal representation.
The majority of the accused are Muslims.
Many of the defendants were called to West London Magistrates court for an initial hearing on 29 and 30 October last year.
In the waiting room, police officers gave defendants immigration forms to sign, agreeing that any conviction could result in being deported.
Unusual bail conditions were also placed on the vast majority of the young people.
This included having to hand in their passports to their local police station and being banned from any travel unless previous permission had been received from police.
The heavy sentences for Layla and Bana should send shockwaves through the anti-war movement.
We need to stand alongside all those bearing the brunt of this state attack.
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