Gaza protesters win cut in sentences

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The Independent Online

Seven protesters arrested after demonstrating against Israel's invasion of Gaza won cuts in their sentences today.

A further three failed in their bid at the Court of Appeal in London to have their jail terms reduced.

Supporters packed into court to hear the decision of Lord Justice Thomas, Mrs Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Bean.

Although allowing sentence appeals brought by some of the demonstrators, Lord Justice Thomas stressed that "those who engage in violence of this kind must go into custody".

More than 100 people were arrested last year after protests outside the Israeli embassy in London during which bottles and stones were thrown and a coffee shop was attacked.

Seventy-eight protesters were charged following the protests, most with violent disorder.

Sentences handed out in cases which have so far been before the courts range from eight months to two-and-a-half years.

Before today's proceedings, a picket was held outside the court building which was called by Stop the War Coalition, CND, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative and Palestine Forum of Britain.

Seven of the applicants were in the dock for the hearing, two were not present and the 10th, who has been released on home detention curfew, was in the public gallery.

Nine are from London and a 10th is from Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Lord Justice Thomas, giving the ruling today, said: "People who engage in violence of this kind must go into custody.

"They cannot be dealt with by community sentences.

"The protection of the public and the police demands that violent disorder of this kind... is marked by a custodial sentence.

"These custodial sentences will, of course, depend on a clear and comprehensive analysis of the events in question. Political motivation can play no part."

In their ruling today, they concluded that judges had approached sentencing with too high a "starting point". They also criticised the length of time it had taken for cases to be dealt with following the protests.

Asim Alhaddad, 24, of Annesley Avenue, Colindale, north west London, had his two-year sentence reduced to 21 months.

Qassir Tamuri, 19, of High Street, Stratford, east London, had a 30-month term cut to 12 months.

Mustafa Hassan, 19, of the White City Estate, Hammersmith, west London, had his term cut from 18 months to 10 months.

Mohammed El-Araj, 20, of Blenheim Crescent, Kensington, west London, had his two-year term of imprisonment quashed and replaced with 18 months.

Sid-Ali Zenaf, 20, of Stocksfield Road, Waltham Forest, east London, won a cut from two years to 18 months.

In relation to Mosab Al-Ani,22, of Carlton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, the judges said there had been a "huge delay" in his case and the court was able to take an "exceptional course".

They quashed Al-Ani's 12-month sentence and replaced it with a community order of 12 months.

Mahamoud Farhan Ali, 19, of Hunt Close, Hammersmith, won a reduction from 18 months to 10 months.

Andris Feodorovs, 30, of Goulton Road, Hackney, east London, failed in his appeal bid, as did Abdul Samad, 23, of Hammersmith's White City Estate.

There was no change in the two-year term imposed on Sayed Rizvi, 19, Hebdon Road, Wandsworth, south west London.