Climate activists who blocked traffic on the Sydney Harbor Bridge were jailed for at least eight months

Lawyers for Deanna 'Violet' Coco, who stopped traffic for 25 minutes in April, say their client was 'outrageous' to be denied bail before next year's appeal

A climate protester who blocked traffic on the Sydney Harbor Bridge has been sentenced to 15 months in prison with an eight-month non-parole period, with human rights defenders calling the sentence "disproportionate".

Judge Allison Hawkins at Sydney's Downing Center local court on Friday sentenced Deanna "Violet" Coco to jail for her role in the climate protests on April 13 this year, when the now 32-year-old parked her truck and stood holding a lit flare.

Coco pleaded guilty to seven counts including using or modifying illegally authorized explosives and refusing police offers during arrest.

His protest blocked one of the five lanes leading into the city during the morning peak for about 25 minutes, before police removed him and others.

Activists will appeal the decision. He was denied bail on Friday and will remain in custody until his appeal hearing in March.

Coco was granted bail following his initial arrest and, according to his attorney Mark Davis, he has complied with all bail conditions since.

Davis said it was "outrageous" that his client had been denied bail before his appeal was heard.

"It's been great for me," Davis told the Guardian. “You always get bail on appeal unless you are the abuser and you don't comply with the terms of your bail. For months he has been released on bail, he has done everything – always attend court.”

Davis argued that his client's intentional plan was not to block all traffic and other lines of traffic could move in the same direction. He said his client acted partly out of climate anxiety.

"This is completely disproportionate, done to deter other protesters, is basically sending a message," Davis said on Friday.

Earlier this year, the New South Wales government introduced tough new laws that increase the penalties for non-violent protesters with bigger fines and up to two years in prison. The move follows a series of climate protests that disrupted activity at the key resource export port.

The state governments of Tasmania and Victoria have already passed similar laws this year.

Human Rights Watch Australia researcher Sophie McNeill said Coco's sentence was "deeply concerning".

"Today's decision is further evidence that climate protesters are being subjected to retaliatory legal action by Australian authorities that restricts the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression."

Coco's protest is under the banner of the newly formed climate activist group, Fireproof Australia.

Former Extinction Rebellion member Coco spoke to the Guardian in April about the group's formation, explaining: "Fireproof Australia is designed to be even more disruptive" than Extinction Rebellion.

“We are trying to protest the politicians. We have tried one day march. Nothing happened. So now we need to scale up this disruptive tactic,” he said.

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