A woman accused of blockading the printworks of several national newspapers as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest is a British 'Jihadi' bride who denies leading an all-female Islamic State unit in Syria.
After returning to the UK to live on a canal boat and claiming Universal Credit, Natalie Bracht is alleged to have become involved with the environmental extremist group after she was arrested outside Newsprinters in Broxbourne on Friday.
She remained silent as she appeared via video link from Stevenage Police Station for her court hearing at Luton Magistrates’ Court.
The 45-year-old, who faces one charge of obstruction of the highway from Friday, was offered legal representation but turned it down, the court heard.
She sat with her arms around her knees wearing blue trousers and a grey jumper. She smiled throughout and chose not answer any questions during the hearing.
Court staff asked her to confirm her name and other personal details but she simply did not respond.
Natalie Bracht, 45, a British 'Jihadi' bride who denies leading an all-female Islamic State unit in Syria, has been accused of blockading the printworks of several national newspapers as part of an Extinction Rebellion protest on Friday
She only spoke, with a German accent, to give the judge her address at a squat at Heathrow Row, Sipson, West London. She said: 'It is a squat.. There is a letter box outside.'
The court clerk said: 'You are choosing to remain silent today, therefore I’m assuming you are the correct person facing these charges.'
Bracht is a dual British and German citizen, and is said to have travelled to Syria towards the end of 2014 before begging to be allowed to return to the UK in October 2018.
She had most recently been living in Heidelberg, Germany, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she was repatriated, according to The Sunday People.
After visiting the British consulate in Dusseldorf Bracht was given a ticket for a British Airways flight to London on April 3.
On arrival in the UK she was then questioned for more than three hours by Special Branch under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Pictured: File image of Natalie Bracht at King's Cross station, issued on November 18, 2008
On arrival in the UK she was then questioned for more than three hours by Special Branch under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
The mother-of-nine told the paper: 'They asked me where I had stayed in Syria. I had to tell them a couple of times, "Guys, I wasn't in Syria."'
Bracht also said that she was asked for her thoughts on Brexit, elections and vaccines.
She said she had initially been put up in a £44-a-night Travelodge before moving onto a barge and claims she receives help from the Helping Households Under Great Stress organisation.
Luton Magistrates’ Court heard that Bracht had been offered the help of a solicitor but did not take it.
Members of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) environmental campaign group maintain the blockade Broxbourne in Hertfordshire throughout the night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent the Sun, Times, Telegraph and Mail newspapers from reaching newsstands
Prosecutor Cassie Roberts asked for her to be bailed with conditions that she does not go within 100 metres of the boundary of any Newsprinters Ltd Premises, and not to enter Hertfordshire up to an including 13 September, subject to some exemptions.
She was bailed to appear with 50 other Extinction Rebellion demonstrators, some of whom are due to face the same charge of obstructing the highway.
They have been ordered to appear at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on November 27.
There are calls today for the Extinction Rebellion protesters that blockaded the newspaper printworks to be slapped with £10,000 fines for holding an 'illegal gathering'.
More than 100 protesters targeted Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, as well as at Knowsley, near Liverpool, blocking the Sun, Times, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph from leaving the depots.
And now, Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union has called on the police to fine the Extinction Rebellion protestors that were involved in the blockading of the printworks.
Extinction Rebellion protestors block access of a printing house in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, leaving some newsagents' shelves empty on Saturday morning
Taking to Twitter at the weekend, Young said: 'It is incredible that the police fine attendees of anti-lockdown protests £10,000 for having the effrontery to stand up for our freedoms, but stand idly by while XR protestors break the law to stop the distribution of newspapers containing opinions they disapprove of.'
On Saturday, following Extinction Rebellion's blockade, the Society of Editors issued a statement by executive director Ian Murray which condemned the blocking of the presses.
In the statement Murray said: 'The irony of protesters who wish to have their voices heard and their message listened to attempting to silence others by preventing the distribution of newspapers would be laughable if it was not so serious,' commented Murray.
'You have to wonder whether those planning and taking part in these foolish actions understand anything from history; that controlling or shutting down free speech and an independent media is the first action of totalitarian regimes and dictators.
Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, has called on the police to fine the Extinction Rebellion protestors that were involved in the blockading of the printworks
'Everyone has the right to peacefully protest and make their voices heard, after all that is what a free press is all about. But it is not acceptable for those who wish only their voices to be heard to attempt to silence others.
'The UK's media has provided an enormous amount of coverage on the issue of climate change, exploring the arguments from all angles. This attempt to blackmail the media into slavishly repeating the claims of one side of the debate while ignoring criticism of it will fail but displays a poor understanding of how the freedoms that allow organisations like Extinction Rebellion to protest are protected through the very free press they are attacking.'
Jeremy Corbyn's brother, Piers, was also involved in a demonstration this weekend as he appeared in Sheffield to address a crowd of anti-lockdown protestors.
This came only a week after he was fined £10,000 for organising a rally in London.
It comes after the Independent newspaper columnist who masterminded the Extinction Rebellion blockade of printworks has claimed that the British media is worse than the Nazis.
Piers Corbyn, brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, is seen talking to anti-lockdown protestors in Sheffield on September 5
Donnachadh McCarthy, 61, has emerged as one of the leading figures in the group, and justified the attack on press freedom by saying: 'This is like World War Two and you guys [the newspapers] are on the other side. That is how we see it.
'It puts you on the side of the existential threat. It is a different existential threat but it is a bigger one than the Nazis.'
As well as his role as a columnist for the Independent, he is a former deputy chairman of the Liberal Democrats and has appeared on the BBC.
Mr McCarthy attended the protest at the printing plant in Broxbourne on Friday night, briefing journalists at the scene.
In total, 77 people have been charged for the disruption at both printing sites, though Mr McCarthy insisted he was 'not in an arrestable position'.
Fifty-one people have been charged after the demonstration in Hertfordshire, which began at around 10pm on Friday and ended at 11am on Saturday morning.
Natalie Brecht, 45, who gave no address was remanded in custody to appear before Hatfield Magistrates' Court today. 50 have been released on bail to appear at St Albans Magistrates' Court on November 27.
Donnachadh McCarthy, 61, attended the protest at the printing plant in Broxbourne on Friday night, briefing journalists at the scene
On Friday, XR activists erected platforms made from bamboo to block the road along with two vans, preventing police from clearing the site.
Although he was at the scene, Mr McCarthy insisted he had nothing to do with the paper blockade.
However, he outlined a proposal called 'the Great March for Truth and Blockade' last year, sending it to XR's so-called action circle.
In it, he identified the Broxbourne site as 'very vulnerable to a mass blockade'.
His comments have been slammed, with Tobias Ellwood, a former Army captain and chairman for the Defence select committee, telling the Times: 'It is a tasteless comparison to make. To even use such language shows their immaturity and shows they should not be taken seriously.
'If there are any sensible voices among Extinction Rebellion, they should be distancing themselves from such inflammatory language.'
Critics of the blockade have called it an attack on the free press after XR prevented hundreds of newspapers from being delivered.
The Home Secretary has ordered a review of the law aimed at toughening sentences for the environmental extremists after they blockaded newspaper print works in a bid to stifle free speech.
Options being considered include designating the group as an organised crime gang, which would leave militants open to the threat of up to five years in jail.
Writing in the Daily Mail today, Miss Patel says the activists should 'face the full force of the law' for pursuing 'guerrilla tactics... that seek to undermine and cause damage to our society'.
Gallery of hypocrites: An Independent newspaper columnist, a tech boss, a taxman and a former Paratrooper... meet the ragtag band of eco activists who attempted to blockade free speech with printworks protest
One is a former paratrooper, another a 22-year-old 'birth-striker' who vows she will never have children for the sake of the planet.
They were among the ragtag – and rather middle-class – band of printworks rebels who attempted to blockade free speech on Friday night.
Others included a failed would-be MP (who notably works for the Independent news website) and a retired taxman. All eight featured here marched on newspaper printers to impose their views and suppress all others.
Extinction Rebellion's protests led to a night of chaos and 81 arrests in Knowsley, Merseyside, and Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.
Almost 80 people were charged yesterday but currently none faces prison sentences of more than three months if convicted.
Student activist Katie Ritchie-Moulin was among the ragtag – and rather middle-class – band of printworks rebels who attempted to blockade free speech by trying to halt several major national newspapers from going to print on Friday night
1. Katie Ritchie-Moulin, 21
A veteran of direct action climate protests, the student grew up in a prosperous Birmingham suburb.
Her psychologist father Lawrence Moulin, 63, has overseen mental health policies across the West Midlands while her mother, Fiona Ritchie, 55, has a health and social care consultancy with experience of managing multi-million pound budgets.
Miss Ritchie-Moulin was pictured chained to railings outside Leeds Civic Hall in January with a bike lock around her neck and a placard reading 'Airport expansion is ecocide!' in an Extinction Rebellion 'die-in' against plans to expand Leeds-Bradford Airport.
At the time Miss Ritchie-Moulin, who is studying medical science at the University of Leeds, admitted feeling 'very cold' and agreed that chaining herself to railings could be seen as drastic. But she insisted expanding the airport would be 'pretty drastic too'.
There was no one home yesterday at the family's £730,000 three-storey red brick house in the wealthy suburb of Moseley. She was charged with aggravated trespass over the blockade in Knowsley.
2. Donnachadh McCarthy, 61
Former Parliamentary candidate and Independent columnist Donnachadh McCarthy
The deputy chairman of the Liberal Democrats from 2000 to 2003 stood unsuccessfully against Labour's Harriet Harman as an MP in Peckham in 2001.
He attended the Broxbourne protest as a 'spokesman' for XR, and is not believed to have been among those arrested.
Originally from Cork, he told the Mail he works as an eco-auditor who helps businesses be more environmentally friendly. He said: 'We wanted people to wake up on Saturday morning and go to buy their paper and ask, 'Why isn't it here?' They may be angry, but in a few weeks' time they may start paying attention to the warnings.
'We don't want to be arrested, most of the people are lovely people. The police say they love coming to our protests because there's never trouble.'
Mr McCarthy was arrested during the Occupy London protests in 2014. He claims his house in Camberwell was London's first carbon-negative home, with solar hot water and electricity, a wind turbine and a rain-harvester.
He is also notably a columnist for the Independent news website, where he