Solidarity with Ben Stimson

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On 14 July, Ben Stimson, a political prisoner currently held at HMP Manchester, was sentenced to serve five years and four months imprisonment, following his conviction for ‘facilitating Acts of Terrorism’ under Article 5(b) of the Terrorism Act 2006. He was sentenced under special provisions introduced under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 whereby there is no automatic entitlement to early release and sentences are subject to an additional year on licence beyond the final release date.

Ben went to Donetsk in East Ukraine to show solidarity with the anti-fascist resistance there. He was there for four months between August and November 2015, where he occupied himself with driving ambulances and other vehicles, being motivated by humanitarian aims. Ben also spent a short period recovering from illness at a hospital run by the anti-fascist militia there. This, together with selective reading of his facebook postings, and a disastrous interview with BBC correspondent Tom Burridge, formed the basis of his unjust conviction.

Ukraine, once a part of the socialist Soviet Union, has been under harsh right-wing rule since February 2014, when President Poroshenko came to power by means of a coup funded by the US-based National Endowment for Democracy. The coup began with US-backed protests in Maidan Square in Kiev, which led to the ousting of the democratically elected government of Victor Yanukovich and its replacement with a pro-NATO and pro-EU regime. Its legacy has been the murderous repression of leftist opponents, especially in East Ukraine where the Peoples’ Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk were based. After just one year of Poroshenko’s presidency 6,000 Ukrainians had been killed, 15,000 wounded and a million people displaced. It was this situation which led Ben to go to the region.

Of course, for the British ruling class, this act of solidarity automatically constitutes ‘terrorism’ and the media coverage of Ben’s sentencing reflected this, with Granada Reports taking the opportunity to praise the police Counter-Terrorism Unit and urge the public to collaborate with it. The British media’s bias against Russia was also evident with the Manchester Evening News proclaiming: ‘Oldham man travels 2,000 miles to support Putin.’

You can write letters of solidarity to Ben at A0998DW, HMP Manchester, Southall Street, Manchester M60 9AH. It would also be useful to write to the Security Governor at the prison to demand the lifting of restrictions on Ben, which include preventing his access to Maths and English classes, denying him phone calls to his supporters, and stopping his mail, including a postal order for £70 which was raised by supporters at a fundraising gig.

Martin Harrison