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UK women charged under terrorism law for protest posters

The posters’ depiction of Hamas paragliders supposedly indicated the women supported the group – a crime in the UK

Two British women have been charged with terrorism offenses for carrying posters showing Hamas militants paragliding at a pro-Palestine demonstration, the Crown Prosecution Service announced on Friday. 

Heba Alhayey, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, have been charged with single counts of carrying or displaying an article, namely an image displaying a paraglider, to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are supporters of a proscribed organization, namely Hamas,” the prosecutor stated, describing the actions as violations of Britain’s Terrorism Act 2000.

Both women could face up to six months’ prison time for bringing the posters to the protest, which took place in central London last month. 

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Hamas militants used paragliders to enter Israel as part of a larger surprise attack on October 7 that allegedly managed to evade that country’s sophisticated border surveillance. The element of surprise supposedly allowed the fighters – said to be members of Hamas’ elite Nukbha unit – to kill some 1,400 Israelis and kidnap over 200 more, bringing the captives back to Gaza, where most of them allegedly remain.

Israel quickly responded by declaring war on Hamas and pummeling Gaza with the most intense bombardment in the oft-bombed enclave’s history, leveling entire neighborhoods, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents, and killing upwards of 9,488 Palestinians as of Saturday, according to the Gaza health ministry.

London Metropolitan Police arrested 15 people during the protest Alhayey and Ankunda attended in protest of Israel’s bombing of Gaza. While police had warned demonstrators beforehand that “anyone with a flag in support of Hamas or any other proscribed terrorist organization will be arrested,” they later told the BBC that the offenders were picked up for less ideological offenses like setting off fireworks in public and assaulting emergency workers.

Pro-Palestine demonstrations spearheaded by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have drawn thousands into the streets of London since Israel’s declaration of war on Hamas. Protesters continued to wave Palestinian flags and chant lines like “from the river to the sea” despite a warning from Home Secretary Suella Braverman that both could potentially constitute criminal offenses. 

The popular Palestinian slogan might express “a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world,” while the Palestinian flag might be used to intimidate or harass Jews, she claimed, urging police to prioritize “dealing with” any potentially offensive “placards, chants, or behaviors” so that “communities feel protected” in a letter to chief constables in England and Wales sent several days after Hamas’ attack.

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