Three people who displayed images of paragliders at a pro-Palestinian march have been convicted of a terrorist offence.
Heba Alhayek, 29, and Pauline Ankunda, 26, attached images of paragliders to their backs, while Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, stuck one to the handle of a placard.
They were seen at a protest which took place just seven days after militants from Hamas used paragliders to enter Israel from Gaza on October 7.
At a trial at Westminster magistrates court, two of the defendants argued that police had been mistaken about the images, fuelled by a social media storm, and the images were actually parachutes – a “well-known nationalist symbol of peace”.
But they were all found guilty on Tuesday by Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram of a terror offence.
Giving his verdict, Judge Ikram said: “Seven days earlier, Hamas went into Israel with what was described by the media as paragliders.
“A reasonable person would have seen and read that.
“I do not find a reasonable person would interpret the image merely as a symbol of freedom.
“I want to be clear, there’s no evidence that any of these defendants are supporters of Hamas, or were seeking to show support for them.”
Handing the trio a 12-month conditional discharge, Mr Ikram said he had “decided not to punish” the defendants.
“Each of you stands convicted of a terrorist offence,” he continued. “There is nothing to suggest the police of their own volition were going to take any action.
“You’ve not hidden the fact you were carrying these images.
“You crossed the line, but it would have been fair to say that emotions ran very high on this issue.
“Your lesson has been well learnt.
“I do not find you were seeking to show any support for Hamas.”
Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “All three women knowingly displayed the images of paragliders in central London and therefore showed their support for Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organisation.
“The fact that these images were being displayed in the context of a protest opposing the Israeli response to the Hamas attacks demonstrates a glorification of the actions taken by the group.
“Displaying these images could be viewed as celebrating the use of paragliders as a tactic to breach the Gaza/Israel border, and creates a risk of encouraging others to support Hamas.
“When people break the law – whether by hateful speech, supporting proscribed organisations or by threatening public order – we prosecute swiftly and independently.
“We have already prosecuted a string of offences linked to events in the Middle East and we are working closely with the police and community leaders to make sure our approach commands public confidence.”
Opening the case against them, 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.
In a police interview, the pair initially claimed someone at the demonstration “who was not known to them” had stuck the images to their backs, before changing their statements, admitting they had attached them themselves, the court was told.
When arrested an 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.