US military veteran refuses to pay fine after being found guilty over Hamas sign

A 77-year-old US military veteran has told a judge he will not pay more than £2,300 in fines and costs after he was found guilty of carrying a sign supporting Hamas at a protest in South Yorkshire.

Michael Rabb, of Boulder, Colorado, was among up to 500 people who had gathered outside Sheffield City Hall for the protest on October 21 2023 over the ongoing Hamas/Israel conflict.

The former fighter pilot was spotted carrying a homemade sign which read “Stand With Hamas, End Israel, Free Palestine,” City of London Magistrates’ Court heard.

Michael Rabb, from Colorado, arrives at the City of London Magistrates’ Court
Michael Rabb, from Colorado, arrives at City of London Magistrates’ Court (Lucy North/PA)

The judge ordered Rabb to pay a £1,000 fine, which she said was “designed to hurt”, £930 costs and a £400 surcharge.

Rabb, who stood throughout sentencing, responded: “No judge, I’m not going to pay. I refuse to pay.”

He was then warned by the judge, who said he had “extremely strongly held views”, that he may find himself in contempt of court and was given seven days to make the payout in full.

Hamas is a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act and the prosecution had said it was not necessary for Rabb to show support for the group in order to take part in the peaceful public protest.

The protest was staged two weeks after Hamas’s deadly October 7 attack on Israel.

In sentencing, the judge told Rabb that he was of previous good character and that in having “served for your country you have had exemplary character”.

She added “it is clear that you did not appreciate that Hamas was a proscribed organisation” and that Rabb had been “peaceful and co-operative” during the investigation, which did not find him in possession of any terrorist-related material.

Rabb told the court: “I am a 77-year-old USA citizen, a veteran who has served as a fighter pilot for the US Navy in Vietnam.

“I know what it is to do military actions. I have been engaged in the struggle to free Palestine for several years and participated in several missions to Palestine. I have been to Gaza and know how the people are being genocided by the state of Israel.

“I have been in prison in Israel and deported for my activism. I’m here with you to say ‘Yes, I stand with Hamas’.

“I’m here as a tourist. I’m retired, have a small military pension and social security and that is the way I live.”

Michael Rabb, from Colorado, arrives at the City of London Magistrates’ Court
Michael Rabb at City of London Magistrates’ Court (Lucy North/PA)

The sign caused “distress” among organisers, potentially inflamed tensions and the police were asked to step in to talk to him, prosecutor Sebastian Walker said.

He said Rabb had shown no remorse or regret for what he had done.

When Rabb was approached by a uniformed police officer, he said: “What’s the problem. We are standing with Palestine.”

When he was told that he may be committing a terror offence, Rabb asked “It’s against the law to say this?” and added “No way, it cannot be.”

He was later arrested.

Under cross-examination, Mr Walker asked: “Do you accept that to protest against Israel’s actions in the conflict, it was not necessary to specifically talk of your support for Hamas?”

Rabb responded: “I suppose you could say anything you wanted but it was critical to my stance and to the people of Palestine to support and stand with Hamas.

“Hamas took armed resistance to the overwhelming attacks that Israel has been committing for years.”

Rabb told the court that while mass murder was taking place, he was simply holding a sign and carrying out a peaceful non-violent public protest.

He described his actions as a “legitimate act of civil disobedience” which was not disproportionate and claimed his arrest was an attempt to shut down dissent.

Rabb described the use of the Terrorism Act to bring him to court in this way as “arbitrary” and that by any standards of “decency” he should be found not guilty.

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