Monday, 15 March 2010

Campaign in support of protestors facing jail for demonstrating against Israel's attack on Gaza

Campaign in support of protesters facing jail for demonstrating against Israel's attack on Gaza

In January 2009 police attacked hundreds of mainly peaceful protesters on a Stop the War Coalition march against Israel's invasion of Gaza. Protesters later spoke of being harassed, kettled and injured by the police in scenes similar to those we saw several months later on the G20 protests in the City of London.

But British "justice" has a strange way of turning these events onto their heads.

Here are further details of the campaign, from the Stop the War Coalition website:

Meeting in Parliament Tuesday 2 March: Report by Nahella Ashraf

Young people who took part in the mass demonstrations against Israel’s attack on Gaza in January 2009 are being handed down jail sentences for minor offences. Israel's barbarism -- which devastated Gaza and left 1400 dead -- brought tens of thousands on to London's streets, including the demonstration of over 100,000 on 10 January 2009.

Numerous complaints were made about police aggressive behaviour on the Gaza demonstrations. Thousands of protestors were 'kettled' -- illegally held for hours and only released after the police had obtained their names and addresses.

In the months that followed the demonstrations, over 90 protestors were arrested -- most of them Muslims, many of them teenagers -- often in intimidating dawn raids. Many of the young people had been under surveillance by the police for months and during some of the arrests family members were handcuffed and put in a separate room. Others were questioned at police stations without a lawyer present, after being told by officers that they would face long delays if they waited for a solicitor to arrive.

On Tuesday 3 March, over 70 people, including families of those arrested and some of the defendants, attended a meeting held in Parliament, at which the overriding message coming from all the speakers was that the arrests and disproportionate sentencing was politically motivated.

Joanna Gilmore, a research from Manchester University, told the meeting that these are the highest number of mass arrests in relation to a political demonstration since the Poll Tax riots of 1990.

Mohammed Kozbar, of the British Muslim Initiative, added that it was clear the latest sentencing was designed to deter the Muslim community from exercising its democratic right to protest.

It was clear to everyone that the treatment of these young demonstrators is a direct result of this government’s war on terror and the increase in Islamophobia.

The next steps agreed by the meeting was for a petition to be drawn up demanding all the charges of those still waiting to face trial be dropped and circulated as widely as possible. This will then be presented to the Director of Public Prosecution and the Justice Secretary Jack Straw. It was also agreed that a meeting be called for the families and various legal teams. The campaigning lawyer Imran Khan has agreed to take on all the appeals.

The meeting agreed the following aims:

  • Release all those already in prison
  • Drop all charges
  • Hold an independent enquiry into the policing of the demonstrators.
  • Hold an independent review of all complaints raised against the police from the demonstrations.
  • End the criminalisation of the Muslim community.
  • Defend the right to peacefully demonstrate.

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For background see:

See also: Stop the War dossiers on police violence
03 March 2009 demonstration
10 March 2009 demonstration

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