After a lengthy trial, a jury in Brighton has returned a 'not guilty' verdict on a group of activists who caused a quarter of a million pounds' worth of damage to the property of the arms company, EDO/ITT. The jury accepted their argument that they were preventing a “greater evil”.
The activists entered the company's premises during the Israeli assault on Gaza, pointing out that EDO/ITT supply weapons parts to Israeli forces and describing themselves as “citizen's decommissioners”. By barricading themselves in and breaking computer equipment, they put an assembly area and machinery used to make bomb release mechanisms out of action.
The trial of the eight decommissioners has lasted for over three weeks. Five were acquitted of criminal damage - Simon Levin,Tom Woodhead, Ornella Saibene, Bob Nicholls and Harvey Tadman. The verdict on another two - Chris Osmond and Elijah James Smith - is expected shortly. The case against the other defendant, Rosa Bellamy, was dismissed earlier in the proceedings due to lack of evidence.
The acquittal was warmly welcomed by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
“We are pleased to see all that the actions of these five decommissioners have been seen in their proper context – a heartfelt and genuine protest against a company making weapons for an illegitimate war against civilians,” said CAAT's Kaye Stearman.
She added, “The jury listened to the evidence and to the defence arguments of necessity and came to the conclusion that this was a case of conscience, not conspiracy. We hope that the remaining decommissioners will also be acquitted.”
EDO/ITT manufactures release clips for F15s and F16s as well as the Paveway system of munitions, which were used by the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza. The company has long been the target of protests by opponents of the arms trade.