Report by James Cracknell
Three activists from Walthamstow are among 15 due to stand trial after they blocked a mass-deportation flight from taking off at Stansted Airport.
The human rights campaigners have been charged with a terrorism offence under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act, the first time this law has been used against peaceful protesters, and could face life imprisonment if found guilty at their trial in Chelmsford next month.
The flight prevented from taking off in March 2017 was destined for Nigeria and carried 50 migrants and asylum seekers who faced violent persecution in their home countries. The defendants were initially charged with aggravated trespass, but this was later changed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to endangering safety at an aerodrome, a much more serious offence introduced following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas is among several politicians who have expressed support for the activists, saying they “follow in the footsteps of many brave people who have put their bodies in the way of state violence”.
Others who have expressed support, signing an open letter expressing concern over mass-deportation flights, include actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson, rapper Akala, film director Ken Loach, barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, and author Naomi Klein.
Walthamstow Migrants Action Group (WMAG) is also backing the three activists from Walthamstow who have been charged; Melanie Strickland, Emma Hughes, and Melanie Evans.
A CPS spokesperson said: “Following a review of this case in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, these defendants were charged with the intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome, contrary to section 1(2)(b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990.”