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03rd Jan 2023

Organiser of BLM protests that toppled Edward Colston statue charged with stealing ‘tens of thousands’ from donors

Steve Hopkins

Xahra Saleem is accused of stealing money intended to help pay protesters legal fees

An organiser of the Black Lives Matter protests that toppled slave trader Edward Colston’s statue has denied stealing “tens of thousands” from donors.

Xahra Saleem, 22, entered not guilty pleas to two charges of fraud on Tuesday when she appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court.

The 22-year-old was taken into court wearing a black niqab and long navy blue trench coat and spoke only to confirm her name, address, date of birth, and to give her pleas.

Saleem is accused of stealing thousands of pounds raised through a GoFundMe page called ‘BristBLM’ initially set up for the demonstration on 7 June 2020 to cover the cost of covid PPE mitigation equipment.

The fundraiser was also intended to raise cash for Changing Your Mindset, which was a Bristol-based youth group that has since dissolved.

Saleem additionally faces charges relating to a Crowdfunder page, ‘Bristol Protestors Legal Fees’, which raised money for people facing criminal proceedings after the city’s protests.

Four people were cleared in court of causing criminal damage in January of 2022 after protests in June 2020 saw the toppling of controversial figure Edward Colston.

Both charges of fraud read out in court alleged that while acting as an organiser for campaign groups ABL Bristol and Changing Your Mindset Ltd Saleem “dishonestly abused that position intending thereby to make a gain, namely used the funds raised, for [her]self”.

The charges stated that Saleem allegedly committed the offences while at an address in Tadpole Garden Village in Swindon, “or elsewhere”.

Saleem gave her present address as Briars Walk, Romford, Essex.

District Judge Lynne Matthews adjourned Saleem’s case and sent it to Bristol Crown Court for a hearing on January 30.

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