7 British activists acquitted for damaging arms factory
- These peace activists in England smashed up a factory that was making weapons to be used by the zionist military in Palestine. They were acquitted by a jury under UK law that allows people to damage property in order to stop commission of a greater crime. Please go to the link to watch the video if it doesn't come thru on email. There is also another article underneath that focuses on the Green Member of Parliament who supported the activists.
7 British activists acquitted for damaging factory making weapons for zionist regime
"We Are The Accusers, Not The Accused"
by Chloe Marsh
3 July 2010
On 16th January 2009 seven U.K. peace activists broke into the premises of EDO MBM, suppliers of weapons components and in the words of one of them, Elijah Smith 'set out to smash it up to the best of our abilities'.
It was an entirely accountable action which was always intended to end in a trial and each decommissioner had pre-recorded a video in which they stated the reasons for their participation to help dismantle the war machine from the factory floor.
Once inside the building, they barricaded themselves in and set to work. Equipment used to make weapon components were trashed and computers, filing cabinets and office furnishings were thrown out of the windows. Once they were done they calmly waited for the police to arrest them. Two activists who supported them outside the factory gates were also on trial. All of the defendants have argued that what they did was not only morally necessary but crucially that it was legal. U.K law allows the commission of damage of property to prevent greater crimes.
Two of the accused, Simon Levin and Chris Osmond have extensive experience of working in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement. Chris Osmond told the court that 'the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza at that time meant it was imperative to act'. He cited the words of Rachel Corrie, the U.S activist who was killed by an IDF bulldozer in Rafah, as an inspiration. The court heard a passage of Corrie's diary 'I'm witnessing this chronic insidious genocide and I'm really scared, this has to stop, I think it is a good idea idea for all of us to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop'.
During the trial the court heard not only from the defendants themselves but from Sharyn Lock, who was an international human rights volunteer in Gaza during Cast Lead. She was inside Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City when it was attacked with white phosphorus. She concluded her evidence by saying that she had no doubt that those who armed the Israeli Air Force 'had the blood of children on their hands'. The jury saw footage of the air attacks on the UNWRA compounds where civilians were sheltering and have been given an edited version of the Goldstone report.
Recently elected member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas also gave evidence supporting the decommssioners, saying that the democratic process 'had been exhausted' as far as the factory was concerned.
On January the 17th 2009 the bombs had already fallen relentlessly on Gaza for three weeks. Massive, passionate demonstrations and pickets had been held in many cities around the country and the world in protest against Israel's war crimes, but to no avail. A growing sense of helplessness was grabbing hold of the movement as the Palestinian body count stood at over 1400 and counting. 300 of the dead were children. It was against this background that the "citizen's decommissioning" of EDO MBM/ITT took place.
EDO/ITT is an arms manufacturer, based in Brighton since 1946. They were acquired along with the rest of EDO Corporation by the multinational arms conglomerate ITT in December 2007. Their primary business is the manufacture of weapons systems such as bomb release mechanisms and bomb racks. This includes crucially the manufacture of the VER-2 Zero Retention Force Arming Unit for the Israeli Air Force's F16 war planes.
Over the years, EDO have consistently denied supplying Israel, and despite over fifty court cases campaigners were not able to properly expose the links between the factory and the IAF. However the serious nature of the charges against the seven (the factory sustained nearly £200,000 of damage and may not have recommenced production for weeks) means that for the first time courts took the argument that EDOs business is fundamentally illegal very seriously.
Paul Hills, the Managing Director of EDO MBM, spent his five days on the witness stand last week being confronted with all the evidence gathered by campaigners over the years evidence which exposes a complex network of collaboration between British, American and Israeli arms companies and the way in which their deals are clouded in secrecy. The Decommissioners were able to present Mr Hills, for the first time, with a dossier of evidence showing how EDO MBM use a front company in the U.S.A to indirectly supply components for the F 16 to Israel. Under U.K law the supply of weapons components that might be used in the Occupied Territories is actually a crime.
After hearing Hills' explanations of his company's business practices, Judge George Bathurst-Norman said that, despite Hill's denials of dealing with Israel, it was clear that their was enough evidence to justify a genuinely held belief they did. He also offered the opinion that End User Certificates required for arms export licences were " not worth the paper they are written on" as they can be easily manipulated.
There is a history of juries in British courts finding anti-war activists not guilty when they attack machinery used in war crimes. In 1996 four women from Trident Ploughshares decommissioned a Hawk jet that was about to be shipped to Indonesia they were found not guilty. In 2008 the Raytheon 9, who damaged a factory in Derry supplying weapons to Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war, were acquitted by a jury and only two weeks ago a group of nine women carrying out a similar action at Raytheon during the Gaza attacks were also found not guilty by an unanimous jury.
On Friday, the jury found Simon Levin, Tom Woodhead, Ornella Saibene, Bob Nicholls, Harvey Tadman, Elijah Smith and Chris Osmond not guilty of "Conspiracy to Cause Criminal damage" by unanimous verdict in Hove Crown Court.
Chris Osmond said "This action was taken because of EDO MBMs illegal supply of weapons to the Israeli military. We brought the suffering of ordinary Palestinians into a British courtroom and confronted with the evidence they took the brave decision to find that our actions were justified."
The decommissioners' stance made it clear to companies like EDO that they can no longer count on not being held to account for their actions. There are now a growing number of people in the international community who are willing to risk their own liberty to stand up for the people of Gaza and to challenge Israel's war crimes through whatever means possible.
For more information see www.smashedo.org.uk
Green Party's Caroline Lucas 'delighted' over activists cleared of damaging arms factory in protest against Israeli war crimes
Brighton MP declares support for acquitted Gaza campaigners
Friday 2 July 2010
Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
Britain's Green MP today declared her support for seven acquitted campaigners who caused £180,000 damage to an arms factory, backing their direct action.
Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, said she was "absolutely delighted" that the activists had been cleared, after successfully arguing they were seeking to stop Israeli war crimes.
The three-week trial at Hove crown court ended today when the final two activists, accused of causing the damage to the Brighton factory, were acquitted. The jury had found the other five not guilty on Wednesday.
The seven, who called themselves "decommissioners", had argued during the trial that they had a "lawful excuse" to smash up the factory, because it was manufacturing military equipment for the Israeli military, which was illegally killing Palestinian civilians, including children.
Outside the courthouse, Lucas said :"I am absolutely delighted the jury has recognised that the actions of the decommissioners were a legitimate response to the atrocities being committed in Gaza. I do not advocate non-violent direct action lightly. However, in this situation it is clear the decommissioners had exhausted all democratic avenues and, crucially, that their actions were driven by the responsibility to prevent further suffering in Gaza."
She added: "I do think that there is a time when [non-violent direct action] is legitimate and I think that this was such a time."
The seven had admitted breaking in and destroying parts of the factory in January last year, in response to the Israeli military offensive against Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead, but claimed they had a lawful excuse.
Chris Osmond, 30, from Brighton and Elijah Smith, 42, from Bristol, were acquitted of conspiracy to cause criminal damage on the directions of Judge George Bathurst-Norman.
Osmond said: "During Operation Cast Lead 1,400 people were killed, 350 of which were children. The international community appeared to be completely helpless. The UN could not even protect its own compounds. The only light at the end of the tunnel for the people of Palestine is if ordinary people like us take direct action on their behalf."
Lydia Dagostino, the defendants' lawyer, said: "This result shows the jury agreed with the defendants that in this situation there was really no other course but direct action."
The others acquitted are Simon Levin, 35, of Brighton, Tom Woodhead, 25, Ornella Saibene, 50, Bob Nicholls, 52, and Harvey Tadman, 44, all of Bristol.
Other peace and climate change activists have deployed the "lawful excuse" defence to get acquitted after using direct action against the targets of their campaigns.
Activists have been campaigning to close down the factory, owned by the EDO MBM arms firm, for six years.
Sussex police said that, while they respected the decision of the court, 20 people had been convicted following four demonstrations against the US-owned firm over the past two years.
Chief superintendent Graham Bartlett, Brighton and Hove city commander, said: "Sussex police want to facilitate peaceful protests to ensure the safety of both participants and members of the community and to minimise disruption to the city."
The activists had broken into the factory in the middle of the night, after recording video statements justifying their actions and distributing them to the public.
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