Woman accused of terror offence after carrying placard of Hamas paragliders at pro-Palestine rally 'thought it was a symbol of liberation and peace', court hears

  • Post category:news
  • Reading time:3 min(s) read

Two female protesters accused of ‘celebrating’ Hamas by wearing images of paragliders initially told police they had been Sellotaped to their backs by strangers before admitting to attaching them themselves, a court heard today. 

Heba Alhayek, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, claimed under interview that someone at the demonstration in London ‘who was not known to them’ had stuck the images to their backs. 

But they later changed their statements and admitted they had attached them themselves, Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told. 

They displayed the images on October 14, prosecutors allege, just seven days after militants from Hamas used paragliders to enter Israel from Gaza on October 7 before killing more than 1,000 Israelis. Hamas is banned as a terror organisation in the UK. 

Their co-defendant Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, stuck an image of a Hamas paraglider to the handle of a placard, it is alleged.

Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court today for a trial where she will be accused of indicating support for banned organisation Hamas

Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court today for a trial where she will be accused of indicating support for banned organisation Hamas

Heba Alhayek, 29, has been charged with the same offence under the Terrorism Act

Heba Alhayek, 29, has been charged with the same offence under the Terrorism Act 

Pauline Ankunda, 26, outside Westminster Magistrates Court. Like her co-defendants she denies the charges against her

Pauline Ankunda, 26, outside Westminster Magistrates Court. Like her co-defendants she denies the charges against her 

The trio’s display of the images was widely condemned when footage of the demonstration was published on social media, their trial heard. 

They are all charged under the Terrorism Act with carrying or displaying an article to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are supporters of banned organisation Hamas.

They deny the charges.

Prosecutor Brett Weaver told the court: ‘The displaying of these images could be viewed as celebrating the use of the paragliders tactic.

‘They had them on display for a significant period of time.

‘Each of them would have been able to see what the others were doing.’

After the Metropolitan Police launched a social media appeal to find them, Alhayek and Ankunda handed themselves in to Croydon Police Station, the court heard. 

‘The defendants accepted that it was they who fixed the images to their back as opposed to being applied by someone else,’ said Mr Weaver.

‘They stated that they did not see the images as being supportive of Hamas.’ 

Ankunda and Alhayek had the images sellotaped to their backs

Ankunda and Alhayek had the images sellotaped to their backs 

The offence the women are accused of is contrary to section 13(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000

The offence the women are accused of is contrary to section 13(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000

When arrested and interviewed under caution, Taiwo claimed to have been handed the placard and not paid proper attention to the ‘blurry image’ it displayed, the court heard.

‘She denied being a member of Hamas or any proscribed organisation,’ said the prosecutor.

‘She accepted that she was present at the demonstration on 14 October and was handed the placard while she was there.

‘She had not paid attention to what was fixed to the placard as it was a blurry image. She said she believed it to be a symbol of liberation and peace.’

Alyayek and Anjunda, of Upper Norwood, and Taiwo, of south Norwood, all deny wearing or carrying an article supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation

The trial continues.