Sudanese who ‘walked channel tunnel’ pleads not guilty

Abdul Rahman Haroun, 40, charged under an 1861 law on malicious damage

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A Sudanese man who allegedly walked almost the entire 50km of the undersea Channel Tunnel from France to Britain pleaded not guilty on Monday to obstruction charges in an English court.

Abdul Rahman Haroun, 40, appeared at Canterbury Crown Court in Kent, southeast England, via video link from a prison in the county.

He is charged under an 1861 law on malicious damage with causing an obstruction to an engine or carriage using the railway.

When Judge Adele Williams asked the defendant: “Are you guilty or not guilty?”, he replied in Arabic through an interpreter: “Not guilty”.

The charge alleges that he entered, and traversed as a trespasser, the south-running line of the Channel Tunnel, causing any engine or carriage using that railway to be obstructed.

Williams ruled that Haroun be detained until the next hearing on November 9 with a possible trial beginning on January 4.

The accused appeared to struggle with some questions as his interpreter admitted that he had difficulties in understanding the Sudanese accent.

“Then I’ll stay in jail?”, asked Haroun after the ruling. “I’m afraid so,” replied judge Williams.

His lawyer Nicholas Jones rejected the charge of obstruction and said his client qualified for protection under Article 31 of the 1951 UN convention on refugees, of which Britain is a signatory.

This states that members “shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened... enter or are present in their territory without authorization.”

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