A group of activists who broke into an arms factory near Brighton last year and
caused damage costing around £180,000 ($275,000) were found not guilty last week
of causing criminal damage.
In a lawsuit filed in October, seven British
activists claimed they were legally justified to break in and sabotage the
factory of EDO MBM Technology near Brighton, on the south coast of England, in
January 2009, at the time of Operation Cast Lead.
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Believing that the
company was violating export license regulations and sending arms components to
Israel, the activists, from a group called Smash EDO, said they wanted to “slow
down” the manufacture of components that were allegedly being sold to the Jewish
The protesters threw computers and file cabinets out of the
factory windows and smashed machinery using hammers, claiming they were seeking
to prevent “Israeli war crimes in Gaza.”
The seven admitted breaking in
and causing the damage but were acquitted when the jury found them not guilty of
conspiring to cause criminal damage, despite video-taped interviews of the
activists that outlined their intention to cause criminal damage and “smash up”
The activists used the “lawful excuse” defense – committing
an offense to prevent what they say was a more serious crime because EDO was
“complicit in war crimes.”
Judge George Bathurst-Norman told the jury:
“You may well think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what
the Gazans suffered in that time.”
EDO managing director Paul Hills
denied in court that the company supplied components to Israel but said it did
make parts for F-16 fighter planes.
Judge George Bathurst-Norman said
that, despite Hill’s denials, it was clear that there was enough evidence to the
contrary and that the certificates required for arms export licenses were “not
worth the paper they are written on,” as they can be easily
According to The Guardian, the judge highlighted the
testimony by Green Party MP and anti-Israel activist Caroline Lucas, who had
tried to justify the action by saying, “All democratic paths had been exhausted
and, crucially, that their actions were driven by the responsibility to prevent
further suffering in Gaza.”
Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said this was
not a great time for the United Kingdom’s justice system.
the judge’s statement, there is no doubt that this is not a great era of the
British justice system. I assume that Sderot’s children, who have lived under
thousands of missiles, for years, will be able to enlighten the judge as to the
meaning of “hell on earth.
“I am convinced that the judge would have
ruled differently had he been sitting in the Sderot youth cultural center,
rather than on Brighton’s sunny shores,” the ambassador said.
have here is yet another example of how the hysterical campaign against the
State of Israel is not merely resulting in gross injustice against the Middle
East’s only Western-style democracy, it is undermining Western-style democracy
at home,” said Robin Shepherd, from the London- based Henry Jackson Society
think tank and author of A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with
“Bigotry does not merely cause pain and suffering to its victims,
it degrades its perpetrators from within. The rule of law itself is now under
threat in Britain, and judges and juries are applauding as it goes,” Shepherd
After the verdict, one of the activists, Robert Nicholls, 52, told
The Guardian: “I’m joyful really, at being a free man... We just wanted
something that would make a real difference to the people of
“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,” said
activist, Ornella Saibene, 50.
“We’re very happy that a jury of ordinary
people confronted with the facts recognized that our actions were
Saibene told the Bristol Evening Post. “Presented with the facts of what
going on in Palestine, they have backed our action. It’s a victory for
and for both British and Palestinian people.”
On Friday, two more of the
activists were acquitted, Elijah Smith, 42, and Chris Osmond, 30.
an activist from a group called Boycott Israeli Goods, said the
because of EDO’s “illegal supply of weapons” to Israel.
attack, Smith said on the group’s Web site, “I don’t feel I’m going to
anything illegal tonight, but I’m going to go into an arms factory and
up to the best of my ability so that it cannot actually produce
these very dirty bombs that have been provided to the Israeli army so
can kill children.
The time for talking has gone too far. I’m not a
writer, I’m just a person from the community and I’m deeply
Smash EDO campaign spokeswoman Chloe Marsh accused Israel of
committing genocide and called for EDO directors to be tried for war
“The citizens of Britain are no longer prepared to stand idly by
whilst Israel commits genocide with the backing of our own government.
is a peace messenger city. EDO is an obscenity that must be removed from
Brighton and the directors of this foul company ought to be tried for
by the International Criminal Court,” Marsh said.