Jury Acquits Activists Who Caused £180,000 Damage at UK Arms Plant

July 19th, 2010 - by admin

Bibi van der Zee and Rob Evans / The Guardian & Project Sheffield – 2010-07-19 00:58:46


Jury Clears Activists who Broke into Brighton Arms Factory
Bibi van der Zee and Rob Evans / The Guardian

LONDON (June 30, 2010) — Five activists who caused £180,000 damage to an arms factory were acquitted after they argued they were seeking to prevent Israeli war crimes.

The five were jubilant after a jury found them not guilty of conspiring to cause criminal damage to the factory on the outskirts of Brighton.

The five admitted they had broken in and sabotaged the factory, but argued they were legally justified in doing so.

They believed that EDO MBM, the firm that owns the factory, was breaking export regulations by manufacturing and selling to the Israelis military equipment, which would be used in the occupied territories. They wanted to slow down the manufacture of these components, and impede what they believed were war crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinians.

After being acquitted, one of them, Robert Nicholls, told the Guardian: “I’m joyful really, at being a free man. The action was impulsive really, we just wanted to do something that would make a real difference to the people of Palestine.”

Another, Ornella Saibene, said: “I’ve felt very peaceful all the way through the trial because I’m proud of what I’ve done. It was the right thing to do.”

They are the latest group of peace and climate-change activists to successfully use the “lawful excuse” defence — committing an offence to prevent a more serious crime — as a tactic in their campaigns.

The acquitted are Nicholls, 52, Tom Woodhead, 25, Harvey Tadman, 44, Ornella Saibene, 50, all from Bristol, and Simon Levin, 35, from Brighton. They had decided to act last January after three weeks of Israeli military manoeuvres against Gaza in which many Palestinians were killed. According to a UN investigation by former South African judge Richard Goldstone, Israel committed war crimes by deliberately attacking civilians during the offensive known as Operation Cast Lead.

In his summing up, Judge George Bathurst-Norman suggested to the jury that “you may well think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered in that time”.

The judge highlighted the testimony by Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, that “all democratic paths had been exhausted” before the activists embarked on their action.

Hove crown court heard the activists had broken into the factory in the night. They had video-taped interviews beforehand outlining their intention to cause damage and, in the words of prosecutor Stephen Shay, “smash-up” the factory.

These statements were posted on the Indymedia website shortly after they were arrested. Dexter Dias, barrister for one of the defendants, accused Paul Hills, EDO MBM’s managing director, of lying in the witness box when he said his company did not supply components which were being used by the Israeli military. The jury is considering its verdict on two other defendants, Elijah Smith, 42, and Chris Osmond, 29 of Brighton.

Activists Cleared over Brighton Weapons Factory Raid
Underclass.net & Project Sheffield

Seven anti-war activists have been cleared of plotting to damage a Brighton weapons factory after claiming to be preventing Israeli war crimes.

During their three-week trial at Hove Crown Court the activists said they were acting with “lawful excuse” during the break-in at EDO MBM in 2009.

The jury in the trial of seven activists who decommissioned a Brighton arms factory to prevent Israel war crimes in Gaza in January 2009, have now found all seven activists not guilty of Conspiracy to Cause Criminal Damage by unanimous verdict in Hove Crown Court.

The seven entered the factory on 16th January 2009, causing nearly £200,000 of damage and shutting down production. They offered no defence other than the prevention of imminent war crimes.

Simon Levin, Tom Woodhead, Ornella Saibene, Bob Nicholls, Harvey Tadman were all acquitted on Wednesday. The final two Elijah Smith and and Chris Osmond were acquitted Friday 2 July 2010.

Chris Osmond said “This action was taken was taken because of EDO MBM’s 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.”

Extensive damage was caused to the EDO MBM Technology building in Moulsecoomb along with computer equipment and precision machinery. EDO MBM is an approved supplier to the Ministry of Defence and governments worldwide.

The activists admitted they broke into EDO MBM in the early hours of 17 January last year and sabotaged equipment worth about £200,000. But they said they were acting to prevent further alleged war crimes being committed by Israel against Gaza.

All have now been found not guilty by unanimous verdict.

Messages of support have already arrived from Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Noam Chomsky.

Caroline Lucas said:: “I am absolutely delighted that 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 that the decommissioners had exhausted all democratic avenues and, crucially, that their actions were driven by the responsibility to prevent further suffering in Gaza.”

Noam Chomsky said: “I would like to express my respect and admiration for those who are undertaking non-violent resistance to oppose British participation in Israel’s cruel crimes in Gaza.”

The trial followed just a few days after 9 people who attempted to decommission Raytheon in Derry during Israel’s 2009 assault on Gaza were acquitted by a jury (see Ireland Indymedia).

A reminder of what happened: In the early hours of 17th January 2009, during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” offensive against Gaza, six people broke in to the EDO/ITT weapons’ components factory in Moulsecoomb, Brighton, and, allegedly, caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the production line. (see youtube) for the local paper’s video of some of the damage)

The six decommissioners barricaded themselves inside, and proceeded to break computers and other equipment, with the aim of preventing the factory from being able to produce weapons. The action stopped production at the facility until Israel’s bombing campaign was over.