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Former Lancaster Students’ Union President Laura Clayson is currently on trial facing ‘terrorism’ charges. Clayson, who was LUSU President from 2014-2015, could be looking at jail time after being accused of ‘endangering an airport’ following an attempt to stop a deportation flight from London Stansted to Ghana and Nigeria in March 2017.
She faces charges under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act and is currently standing trial in Chelmsford Crown Court alongside 14 other activists, collectively known as the ‘Stansted 15’. The activists are accused of entering the runway area, erecting a blockade and locking themselves onto the wing of the plane which was carrying asylum seekers being deported from the UK. The group allegedly displayed a banner which read ‘Mass deportations kill. Stop charter flights’ and wore clothing with the slogan ‘No-one is illegal.’
Clayson, 28, was elected President of the Students’ Union following a campaign centered around creating a ‘more unified campus community’. Speaking to SCAN in 2014, prior to her election, she discussed how she wanted to improve the Union’s environmental impact and embrace diversity on campus, saying that she would be would be the ‘sixth self-defining woman president in [the Union’s] history’.
Following a six-month delay, the trial began on 1st October. Protestors supporting the Stansted 15 gathered in masses outside Chelmsford Crown Court, displaying signs with messages of support such as ‘Solidarity is not a crime’ and ‘No human is illegal’.
Clayson was also a member of Lancaster University’s Amnesty International Society and was their President before working for the Students’ Union. The society has spoken to SCAN in regard to the issue, and have stated, “This case particularly affects our society as one of the defendants is a former Amnesty Society President. We in the society welcome Amnesty International’s presence at the trial.”
The trial is set to last for six weeks. All 15 members of the Stansted 15 have pled not guilty to the charges.