UK: grandmas face prison in “anti-terrorism” case

From AFP, April 6:

TWO British grandmothers are facing up to a year in prison after being arrested under new anti-terrorism legislation that outlaws protests at military bases, The Independent newspaper said today.

Helen John, 68, and Sylvia Boyes, 62, were detained at the US early warning station at Menwith Hill, in North Yorkshire, northern England, on Saturday after deliberately setting out to highlight the change in the law, it said.

Civil liberties campaigners believe the legislation, which came into force last week and covers 10 bases, including nuclear research facilities, criminalises free speech.

Anyone who breaches the legislation faces a maximum 12 months in prison and/or a fine.

The newspaper said the women, who have 10 grandchildren between them and are veteran peace protesters, will learn whether they will face prosecution on April 15.

Ms Boyes, who with Ms John was detained with a placard denouncing the new law and US military policy, was quoted as saying: “I am quite willing to break the law and prepared to be charged and go to prison.

“The government thinks it can do whatever it wants and that it has a passive public which accepts whatever it throws at it. I find it very worrying.”

The British Government, which defended the new restrictions, has been keen to push through new security laws since last year’s suicide attacks on London, which killed 56, including the four bombers.

But civil liberties groups were quoted as saying it had crossed the “fine line” between protecting citizens and curbing peaceful protest and free speech.

The Independent highlighted a number of other cases in which it said protesters had been turned into “terrorists”.

They included that of an 82-year-old peace activist who was evicted from the annual conference of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s governing Labour Party for heckling Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during his speech on Iraq.

See our last post on tyranny in the UK.