Palestinian-born asylum seeker who wore a green headband supporting Hamas at a Trafalgar Square protest escapes punishment

A Palestinian-born asylum seeker who wore a green headband supporting Hamas at a Trafalgar Square protest has escaped punishment.

Tunisian Khaled Hajsaad, 25, wore the headband as 45,000 pro-Palestinian protestors marched through London calling for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on November 25, 2023.

He was convicted of wearing an article supporting a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act, 2000.

Hajsaad had denied the charge and claimed that his green headband with a ‘Shahada’ on it was an Islamic oath and expression of faith which had been coopted by Hamas.

District Judge Nina Tempia today gave Hajsaad a conditional discharge for three months meaning he will not be punished unless he reoffends.

Palestinian-born asylum seeker Tunisian Khaled Hajsaad (pictured in November), 25, has escaped punishment for wearing a green headband supporting Hamas  

People gather in Trafalgar Square in London for a Pro-Palestine rally on November 25, the same day that Hajsaad was seen wearing the Hamas headband

People gather in Trafalgar Square in London for a Pro-Palestine rally on November 25, the same day that Hajsaad was seen wearing the Hamas headband 

Hajsaad, who has been living in Birmingham, was convicted of wearing an article supporting a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act, 2000

Hajsaad, who has been living in Birmingham, was convicted of wearing an article supporting a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act, 2000

She did not ask him to pay any costs due to his limited means as he lives on £49 a week.

The judge said: ‘The offence here was Mr Hajsaad wearing a bandana at a demonstration.

‘Looking at the guidelines I would put this at the lowest level for culpability.

‘In respect of harm it was argued no actual harm was caused but I agree with the submission of the prosecution there was harm as the conduct linked to support of a proscribed organisation.

‘The offence was committed seven weeks after 7 October.’

Hajsaad, of Smethwick, Birmingham, lived in Palestine until he was five and later lived in Tunisia, arriving in the UK a year ago.

He attended Westminster Magistrates Court wearing a blue bodywarmer and tracksuit bottoms assisted by an interpreter.

A masked Hamas militant, holding an AK-47 rifle and wearing a headband that reads 'No gods only one God, Mohammed is Prophet of Allah' in Gaza City in 2002

A masked Hamas militant, holding an AK-47 rifle and wearing a headband that reads ‘No gods only one God, Mohammed is Prophet of Allah’ in Gaza City in 2002

He told a probation officer he cannot understand why wearing the headband is considered a crime and that he did not believe he offended anyone in wearing it.

Tom Wainwright, defending Hajsaad, said: ‘The offence for which he has been convicted of does not mean he is a supporter of Hamas.

‘It should not be said or reported that he is a supporter of Hamas.’

He said that if Hajsaad supported Hamas he would have been charged with a more serious offence.

The barrister added: ‘There is no evidence that anyone was caused distress, there is no evidence to on how long he was wearing this headband and no evidence anyone saw it other than police officers.’

Mr Wainwright said it was not right to say that Hajsaad is responsible for harm or offence that may be caused to those reading about his actions in the media.

Hajsaad has no previous convictions and little education.

‘He is someone who is keen to learn, someone who has experience of trauma,’ Mr Wainwright said.

‘His first time in court has been a salutary lesson. It’s not an experience he wants to repeat. There is no risk of him reoffending or being back before the court.’

Prosecutor Gareth Weetman earlier asked the judge to consider the ‘distress’ caused by Hajsaad’s headband and referred to the atrocities against Israel civilians on 7 October.

He said: ‘November 25th was the day in question and so it must be that the defendants actions lent support to a terrorist organisation very soon after acts by that terrorist organisation on the 7 October, which would have been extremely fresh and raw in the minds of very many people.

‘Therefore causing distress, significant distress, to those who were targeted by that organisation both directly and in the wider sense.

‘Images of those very high profile protests would have been broadcast worldwide.’

Two academics in the field, Professor Robert Gleave and Hugh Lovatt gave evidence at trial.

They spoke about the specific calligraphies of the Arabic script, as well as how closely it resembled the Saudi Arabian flag.

Experts in court spoke about the specific calligraphies of the Arabic script, as well as how closely it resembled the Saudi Arabian flag. Pictured: A Saudi Arabian flag flutters in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 20, 2018

Experts in court spoke about the specific calligraphies of the Arabic script, as well as how closely it resembled the Saudi Arabian flag. Pictured: A Saudi Arabian flag flutters in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 20, 2018

Judge Tempia said: ‘Both witnesses I heard from are clearly experts in their field.

‘Both Mr Lovatt and Professor Gleave agreed that the Shahada was a statement of faith.

‘Professor Gleave accepted that in the conflict between Palestine and Israel there was no other organisation in the arena apart from Hamas that was readily associated with Shahada on a green background.

‘I have to decide whether he was wearing it in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he was a supporter of that proscribed organisation.

‘I am satisfied that the crown have proved their case to the criminal standard.

‘Hamas is the most notable Palestinian group associated with the colour green and given the context of where the defendant was, wearing the headband on a pro-Palestine march, there would be no reason for someone to wear a headband of a Saudi flag.

‘It clearly was not, it did not have the Saudi sword on it.

‘I am satisfied so I am sure that the defendant wore an item of clothing, a green headband in such circumstances to arouse reasonable suspicion that he was a supporter of a proscribed terrorist organisation, namely Hamas.

‘I do find that the harm is serious and I have to agree that the nature of the offence when it happened, soon after the incident of 7 October, would have made significant distress to those who were observing the demonstration.’

Hajsaad, of Smethwick, Birmingham, denied but was convicted of wearing an article supporting a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act, 2000.

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