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Severe sentences for student protesters

by Siân Ruddick

Five protesters were imprisoned for up to 18 months last Friday. Another six received non-custodial sentences.

Families, friends and supporters packed the public galleries for the different cases at Kingston Crown Court in West London to hear the sentencing.

The majority of charges related to student protests of November and December 2010, when thousands of young people poured onto the streets to oppose the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and protest at government plans to triple tuition fees. Others came from the TUC march on 26 March this year.

All those imprisoned were convicted of violent disorder.

Omar Ibrahim was sentenced to 18 months for throwing a spent toy smoke bomb.

Oguz Ornek, now 19, was also sent to prison for 18 months, convicted of violent disorder, after the 24 November student protest in Whitehall.

The remaining custodial sentences were for people on the protest at the Tory party HQ at Millbank on 10 November last year.

Sussex university student Zenofon Mitchell Kotsakis, 20, was given 15 months in a youth offenders' institution for throwing two light placard sticks.

Demi Wilson Smith, 19, was given 10 months for shouting at police and waving a stick towards them.

Benjamin Sunderland was sentenced to 12 months for jabbing at an already broken window with a chair and a stick.

Judge Tapping spoke of 'deterrent sentencing' and accused the young people of discrediting the cause they were protesting about.

Another six people received non-custodial sentences.

These included Bryan Simpson, 23, who was charged with affray after the Millbank protests. He received a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months and 120 hours unpaid work. Bryan's parents and many supporters had travelled from Glasgow and filled in the public gallery

Agit Goztas, now 19, received an eight-month sentence suspended for 18 months, 90 hours community service and £350 costs to the prosecution. His crime was a single kick to a wire fence.

Samuel Fowler, 27, was given 150 hours community service after police arrested him on 26 March TUC demonstration with two non-permanent marker pens and some superglue. He was charged with having an article with the intent to cause damage. The police had not seen him use the pens to damage any property.

Jack Coulthard and Sahin Tasyurdu, both 17 at the time, were charged with violent disorder from another student protest on 9 December.

Jack's barrister stressed that the police had not accused Jack of being violent towards any persons, even though that is what the charge of violent disorder is for. Judge Dodgson replied, 'I'm beginning to wonder why he pleaded guilty.' His barrister added that police had interviewed Jack without a solicitor present. He was told to complete over 100 hours community service.

The defence barrister told the court how Sahin relied on EMA. '£30 a week is vital for Sahin to pay for books and materials needed to complete his college course.' The court heard how Sahin has severe dyslexia but has persevered with his education. He was given an eight-month prison term suspended for two years and a curfew between 9pm and 7am for three months.

The families of those sent to prison have vowed to continue their fight for justice. Socialist Worker will publish the addresses of those prisoners who want to receive letters as soon as they become available.

Defend the Right to Protest will be raising funds to help families and prisoners. Go to http://defendtherighttoprotest.org for updates


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Sun 6 Nov 2011, 14:48 GMT
Issue No. 2276
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