Document:Eight activists go on trial for disrupting Israel’s weapons trade
★ Start a Discussion about this document
Eight activists go on trial for disrupting Israel’s weapons trade
The activists are charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit burglary, two counts of conspiracy to destroy or damage property, one count of assault by beating and one count of conspiracy to blackmail.
The charges relate to around 15 different protests undertaken by eight Palestine Action members, including the groups’ co-founders Huda Ammori and Richard Barnard, against the UK-based facilities of Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems.
All of the activities took place within the first eight months of Palestine Action being formed in June 2020.
Although they are being prosecuted collectively, not all the defendants face the same charges.
Delayed for over a year, the trial of the Elbit Eight is expected to last six weeks. Significantly, it will be a trial by jury. Most cases against members of Palestine Action have been decided by judges in magistrates’ courts, which operate without juries.
“As Britain supports Israel’s massacre of my people, they put me and others on trial for taking action to disrupt the production of the weapons used to murder them,” Huda Ammori from Palestine Action said.
“However, this trial is bigger than myself and my co-defendants,” she added. “It’s an extension of the fight against the Israeli weapons trade and all those who facilitate the genocide of the Palestinian people.”
Most of the charges in the indictment concern actions which involved the alleged pouring of red paint on the outside or inside of premises belonging to or rented by Elbit, and spray-painting words such as “war criminals” and “shut Elbit down.” At least one charge relates to Palestine Action’s first ever roof occupation of a factory belonging to Elbit subsidiary UAV Engines in Shenstone, near the English city of Birmingham, during September 2020.
Palestine Action’s protests are continuing. Over the past few weeks the group has targeted several buildings used by Elbit and another arms company, as well as the headquarters of the BBC – which has consistently displayed a pro-Israel bias in its reporting – and the UK Foreign Office.
“Necessary and right”
In October, a jury acquitted Palestine Action activist Sohail Sultan of charges of criminal damage related to his occupation of a factory belonging to the Arconic corporation. The court heard how Arconic provided materials for fighter jets used by the Israeli military and also produced the cladding which went up in flames in London’s infamous Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 that killed 72 residents. All but one of the initial prosecutions of Palestine Action members either collapsed or resulted in acquittals. That was before the summer of 2022 when the UK Court of Appeals ruled that activists accused of causing “more than minor” damage cannot rely on human rights protections as a defence of their actions.
Since that ruling, around 50 percent of trials involving Palestine Action have resulted in acquittals. The other 50 percent of trials have resulted in convictions.
“Facing prison pales into insignificance when compared to the genocide Israel is committing against the Palestinian people using Elbit’s weaponry,” said Palestine Action’s Richard Barnard. “Whatever the state says, we know we did what was necessary and right. Now, we must fight to prove that in the courts, and bring the Palestinian struggle to the forefront.”
Three of the defendants, including Huda Ammori and Richard Barnard, also face the most serious charge of “conspiracy to blackmail.” That charge flowed from a statement made by Barnard in 2021.
The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service is now alleging, however, that the “conspiracy to blackmail” charge concerns letters sent to JLL in which Palestine Action members promised to continue disruptive protests until the company evicted Elbit.
Charging protesters with conspiracy to blackmail is unusual. The last known case was more than a decade ago.
Barnard also denies the “assault by beating” charge.
The Shenstone Six – as the activists have been dubbed – are being charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage and two burglary charges relating to their occupation of the Elbit-owned UAV Engines factory last year.
- "The ‘other’ Palestine protesters quietly shutting down arms factories"
- "Weapons makers treat genocide as a business opportunity"
- "Direct action at Elbit arms company"
- "Direct action at Elbit arms company HQ"
- "A new campaign is challenging UK complicity in Israeli apartheid, and it really means business"
- "BREAKING Overnight occupation at Israeli owned arms company Elbit"
- "Israel's arms industry and its links with the UK"
- "Palestine Action Strikes Three Israel-Supplying Weapons Factories in One Day"
- "Pro-Palestinian group targets BBC headquarters with red paint ‘blood’ protest"
- "Palestine Action target the Foreign Office over its 106-year role in Israel’s war crimes in Gaza"
- "Jury delivers not guilty verdict for activist who occupied Grenfell cladding company factory"
- "Palestine activists occupy UK factory supplying materials for Israeli fighter jets" (Arconic also produces the cladding, made of highly flammable material, that caused the Grenfell Tower fire four years ago)
- "Colston four: protesters cannot rely on ‘human rights’ defence, top judge rules"
- "Colston Four Ruling ‘Puts A Threshold On Our Human Rights' Liberty Warns"
- "UK threatens to charge Palestine Action with terrorism"
- "Dear @JLL if you do not respond to us within 28 days, preparations for an open-ended hunger strike outside your key offices will commence"
- "Animal rights activists face 14 years jail for blackmail"
- "Trial Begins for Six Activists Who Disarmed Shenstone’s Israeli Weapons Factory"
- "British link with drone aiding the Israeli war effort"