[News] Activists found not guilty for decommissioning weapons factory
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 7 19:15:08 EDT 2010
Activists found not guilty for decommissioning weapons factory
Chloe Marsh, The Electronic Intifada, 7 July 2010
Seven anti-war activists on trial for entering a
Brighton weapons factory and "decommissioning" it
were found unanimously "not guilty" last week.
On 16 January 2009, in the midst of Israel's
relentless bombing of Gaza, six of the defendants
broke into the premises of EDO MBM, a supplier of
weapons components. According to one of the
defendants, Elijah Smith, they "set out to smash
it up to the best of our abilities." Two
activists who supported them outside the factory
gates were also put on trial for "conspiracy to cause criminal damage"
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, the six barricaded
themselves in and set to work; equipment used to
make weapon components was 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.
All of the defendants have argued that what they
did was not only morally necessary but crucially,
that it was legal. UK 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 US activist who was killed in
2003 by an Israeli soldier operating a bulldozer
in Gaza, as an inspiration. The court heard a
passage of Corrie's diary in which she wrote:
"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, a
human rights volunteer who was in Gaza during the
winter 2008-09 attacks. 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 UN agency for Palestine refugees
(UNRWA) compound where civilians were sheltering
and have been given an edited version of the Goldstone report.
Recently-elected member of parliament for the
local area, Caroline Lucas also gave evidence
supporting the activists, saying that the
democratic process "had been exhausted" as far as the factory was concerned.
On 17 January 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 more than 1,400 and counting.
Three hundred of the dead were children. It was
in this context that the "citizens' decommissioning" of EDO MBM/ITT took place.
The arms manufacturer EDO/ITT has been based in
Brighton since 1946. Acquired along with the rest
of EDO Corporation by the multinational arms
conglomerate ITT in December 2007, the company's
primary business is the manufacture of weapons
systems such as bomb release mechanisms and bomb
racks. Crucially, this includes the manufacture
of the VER-2 Zero Retention Force Arming Unit for
the Israeli Air Force's F16 war planes.
Over the years EDO has consistently denied
supplying Israel, and despite more than fifty
court cases campaigners have not been able to
properly expose the links between the factory and
the IAF. However the serious nature of the
charges against the eight activists (the factory
sustained nearly £200,000 -- or $301,600 -- of
damage and may not have recommenced production
for weeks) means that for the first time courts
are taking seriously the argument that EDO's business is fundamentally illegal.
Paul Hills, the managing director of EDO MBM,
spent his five days on the witness stand at the
beginning of the trial being confronted with all
the evidence gathered by campaigners over the
years exposing a complex network of collaboration
between British, American and Israeli arms
companies and the way in which their deals are
clouded in secrecy. The activists on trial were
able to present Hills, for the first time, with a
dossier of evidence showing how EDO MBM uses a
front company in the US to indirectly supply
components for F-16 aircraft to Israel. Under UK
law the supply of weapons components that might
be used in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip 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 there
was enough evidence to justify a genuinely-held
belief that they did. He also offered the opinion
that End User Certificates required for arms
export licenses 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.
The not guilty verdicts handed down by a jury of
randomly selected members of the public, will
make it clear to companies like EDO that not only
is there a growing number of people 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, but that
public opinion in the UK is hardening against Israel.
Chloe Marsh is a long-term peace campaigner and
activist. She has been involved in campaigning
against the arms trade for many years and
opposing the illegal wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and she's also worked with the
International Solidarity Movement in Palestine.
Smash EDO has been campaigning for the closure of
EDO MBM/ITT for six years. To get involved,
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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