by One World Network –
LONDON (March 11, 2004) — Lawyers for the Attorney General today succeeded in keeping his full advice on the legality of the war secret.
Greenpeace had this morning sought a witness summons forcing the government to reveal the full advice. Greenpeace says the advice is vital to the defence of 14 of its volunteers, who face charges relating to the occupation of tanks at Marchwood military base in the run up to the war.
David Perry QC, representing the Attorney General, claimed the full advice was ‘privileged’ information that was not relevant to the trial and must therefore remain confidential. Tim Owen, QC for Greenpeace, argued that the disclosure was essential to ensure a fair trial, but District Judge John Woollard ruled in favour of the government.
DJ John Woollard also refused a witness summons against former deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office Elizabeth Wilmhurst, who lawyers for Greenpeace had sought to question. This is despite the fact that Ms Wilmhurst had indicated that she would not resist an application for a summons. Thus as things stand the court will not hear Elizabeth Wilmhurst’s evidence.
As deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office Elizabeth Wilmhurst was in an ideal position to know what advice the Foreign Office was receiving on the legality of the war in February 2003, when the Marchwood occupation took place.
Ms Wilmhurst has stated in media interviews that she resigned from the Foreign Office because she disagreed with the Attorney General’s advice.
Lawyers representing Greenpeace believe there are grounds to appeal today’s ruling if the defendants are convicted. If the 14 want to appeal it will happen.
Greenpeace Executive Director Stephen Tindale said “Obviously we are disappointed by today’s events, but we still intend to have a vigorous defence over the coming days and of course there is still the very real possibility of an appeal”
Further information contact:
Ben Stewart in Southampton on 07801 212967, or the Greenpeace Press Office on 020 7865 8255.