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I could have been jailed for peaceful protest – this will get worse if the Tories win | Ben Smoke

I helped to stop the deportation of vulnerable people, but was charged with a terrorism offence. Our right to protest is being undermined

A year ago to the day, I was sitting on an uncomfortable chair in the waiting room at Chelmsford crown court. It was the morning of 10 December 2018 and around me sat friends, family and my 14 co-defendants as we anxiously awaited news of our fate.

We were in the final minutes of a 10-week trial for our part in a peaceful blockade of a deportation charter flight at Stansted airport in March 2017. The plane was due to deport 57 people to Nigeria and Ghana, some of whom were vulnerable people at risk of violence, persecution, trafficking, torture and death. Though originally charged with aggravated trespass, the Crown Prosecution Service would come to change our charges to terror-related offences under legislation brought in in the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing. The maximum sentence attached to the charge was life imprisonment.

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