Protesters guilty of terror offence for displaying images of paragliders

39 minutes ago
About sharing

From left: Heba Alhayek, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, were convicted of offences under the Terrorism Act at Westminster Magistrates’ Court

Three women have been found guilty of terrorism offences after they displayed images of paragliders, “celebrating” the Hamas tactics.

Heba Alhayek, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, attached images to their backs seven days after Hamas militants used paragliders to enter Israel in October.

Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, stuck one to a placard’s handle at a central London pro-Palestinian march.

They denied charges under the Terrorism Act.

The three were charged with carrying or displaying an article to arouse reasonable suspicion that they were supporters of banned organisation Hamas.

Convicting them at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram said: “Seven days earlier, Hamas went into Israel with what was described by the media as paragliders.

“A reasonable person would have seen and read that.

“I do not find a reasonable person would interpret the image merely as a symbol of freedom.”

During their trial, prosecutor Brett Weaver told the court that the images displayed could have been viewed as “celebrating the use of the paragliders’ tactic”.

But Mr Ikram, delivering his verdict, said: “I want to be clear, there’s no evidence that any of these defendants are supporters of Hamas, or were seeking to show support for them.”

He said he had “decided not to punish” the defendants, and handed the trio each a 12-month conditional discharge.

Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, stuck an image of a paraglider to a placard’s handle at a central London pro-Palestinian march, the court was told

“You crossed the line, but it would have been fair to say that emotions ran very high on this issue,” Mr Ikram said.

“Your lesson has been well learned. I do not find you were seeking to show any support for Hamas.”

Lawyers for the group had suggested they were actually displaying images of a parachute emoji rather than paragliders, and claimed police had “mistaken” what they saw that day.

Mark Summers KC, for Alhayek and Ankunda, said the idea that the image was a paraglider started with “an internet group with an agenda”.

He also argued that flying-related images were a common symbol of peace in the region.

Reacting to the verdict, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said displaying the images amounted to the “glorification of the actions” of Hamas.

Images circulated of images of paragliders on the backs of the defendants

Nick Price, head of the CPS special crime and counter terrorism division, said: “The fact that these images were being displayed in the context of a protest opposing the Israeli response to the Hamas attacks demonstrates a glorification of the actions taken by the group.

“Displaying these images could be viewed as celebrating the use of paragliders as a tactic to breach the Gaza Israel border, and creates a risk of encouraging others to support Hamas.

“When people break the law – whether by hateful speech, supporting proscribed organisations or by threatening public order – we prosecute swiftly and independently.

“We have already prosecuted a string of offences linked to events in the Middle East and we are working closely with the police and community leaders to make sure our approach commands public confidence.”

Their display of the images at the protest on 14 October was widely condemned when footage of the demonstration was published on social media, their trial was told.

Listen to the best of BBC Radio London on Sounds and follow BBC London on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to

Related Topics

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.