Direct action to smash arms bound for Israel is not a crime

Tony Gosling tony at
Thu Jul 1 02:05:31 BST 2010

Jury clears activists who broke into Brighton arms factory

Five found not guilty after arguing they were 
seeking to prevent Israeli war crimes in 
Digg it
van der Zee and 
Wednesday 30 June 2010 19.59 BST
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 
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.

+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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