A student’s protest was praised when she rallied against the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker, but Elin Ersson has since been indicted.
On a Turkish airlines flight travelling from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Istanbul, Turkey, 22-year-old Elin Ersson had been seated in front of a 52-year-old Afghan man.
When the Swedish student discovered her fellow passenger was actually an asylum seeker who was due to be deported back to Kabul after landing in Istanbul, she decided to take action.
Taking out her phone, Elin took a 14-minute clip, which shows her refusing to take a seat, knowing the plane would be unable to take off if she remained standing.
Explaining her stance, Elin can be heard protesting:
I don’t want a man’s life to be taken away just because you don’t want to miss your flight. I am not going to sit down until the person is off the plane.
In the footage, she stressed how the asylum seeker’s life would be in danger if he returned to his home country.
When an air steward told her to stop filming, Elin replied:
I am doing what I can to save a person’s life. As long as a person is standing up the pilot cannot take off.
All I want to do is stop the deportation and then I will comply with the rules here. This is all perfectly legal and I have not committed a crime.
However, months after the July 23 flight, Ersson was indicted in Gothenburg district court on Friday October 19, The New York Times reported.
She stands accused of violating Sweden’s aviation act by continuing to stand just as the plane was about to depart. If convicted, she faces up to six months in prison and fines.
Ersson’s lawyer, Thomas Fridh, says his client is innocent:
During the entire action she was prepared to follow the orders of the captain on board, and she left the plane as soon as the pilot decided that she should do so.
Fridh added the aviation act only applies to actions taken while the plane is in flight in the air, not on the ground, as it was when the incident took place.
Despite being criminally charged, Ersson vowed to continue to fight the government’s deportation policies.
The brave young woman said:
To send someone there [to Afghanistan] is in practice sending someone to their death.
As someone who is against the death penalty, it is only right to stand up for those who are faced with being deported to a land in war.
Indeed, Ersson still has a battle ahead. Although her efforts saw the Afghan asylum seeker and the Swedish government officials set to accompany him to Kabul removed from the July 23 flight, he was eventually deported.
You can watch Elin taking a stand below:
By the time Ersson had left the plane, many previously disgruntled passengers had heard her complaint and ended up giving the young woman a standing ovation for her bravery and practical activism.
She has since been branded a ‘hero’.
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