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Later this month, a judge in the UK is set to jail 13 non-violent protestors who occupied one of the runways at London Heathrow in July last year.
The protest, the first ever on a Heathrow runway, lasted six hours and caused the delay or cancellation of some 25 flights.
It was carried out by activists from Plane Stupid, who are opposed to airport expansion.
In their trial last month the activists—known as the Heathrow 13—tried to argue the “necessity defense” in that their actions were necessary due to the “airport’s contribution to life-threatening climate change.”
It is the same defense that the so-called Delta 5 used recently in the U.S. after they blocked a crude by oil terminal in Washington State.
But whereas the judge in the Delta 5 trial praised the defendants for being “part of the solution to the problem of climate change” and “quite frankly, the kind of tireless advocates we need in this country,” the judge in the Heathrow 13 trial sees it very differently.
— RAN (@RAN) January 12, 2016
At the end of last month, the judge convicted the 13 of aggravated trespass and being airside without lawful authority. She asked them to return in three weeks on Feb. 24 for sentencing. The defendants have been told to prepare for immediate custodial sentences.
They could spend up to three months in prison.
In response to their convictions, the Heathrow 13 issued a statement:
“Today’s judgement demonstrates that the legal system does not yet recognize that climate defense is not an offense. We took action because we saw that it was sorely needed. When the democratic, legislative and processes have failed, it takes the actions of ordinary people to change them.”
There is now a growing campaign to urge the judge to reconsider: Today’s Independent newspaper reports how the judge is being “urged not to act on her threat to jail 13 peaceful environmental protesters—as campaigners warn that the British legal system’s long-standing tolerance towards non-violent direct action is under threat.”
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