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Twyford Down six to defy legal ban

SIX Twyford Down protesters jailed for contempt of court were released from prison yesterday after serving half their four-week sentences. They immediately announced that they would continue their protest, even though they risk returning to jail, writes Christian Wolmar.

The six, imprisoned because they refused to pledge that they would not return to the M3 extension construction site from which they were banned by an injunction, immediately held a celebratory rally outside the Department of Transport in Marsham Street in central London.

While in Pentonville and Holloway jails, the six were visited by the former EC environment commissioner, Carlo Ripa de Meana, whose move to block the motorway extension while in office failed, and by Chris Smith, Labour's environment spokesman.

Yesterday, Nick Raynsford, Labour MP for Greenwich, which includes Oxleas Wood, said: 'If it had not been for the Twyford Down protesters, we might not have won at Oxleas Wood.'

Two of the 55 people named in the original injunction which led to the jailings yesterday launched an appeal against its terms, which ban any interference with the site. One of them, David Plumstead, said the injunction's terms were Draconian because it made all 55 responsible for each other's actions: 'If one of the others gets on the site and cuts a brake pipe, then I can be held responsible for their actions. That goes to the heart of democratic rights to campaign.' He said that if unchallenged, it would pose a 'permanent and serious threat to the freedom of collective dissent and assembly in Britain'.

At the rally, John Stewart of Alarm UK], an anti-roads coalition, said there were 220 local protest groups fighting schemes: 'We feel we are beginning to make real headway. Today's announcement about speeding up procedures is designed to convince the construction lobby that the Government is not worried about the protests. But they are.'

(Photograph omitted)