Judge rejects CPS attempt to overturn arms fair acquittals

By agency reporter
May 25, 2016

A District Judge has refused to allow the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to appeal against the acquittal of eight anti-arms trade activists who were charged with blockading the DSEI arms fair in London last September. The CPS application to appeal was refused on the basis it was "frivolous" and "misconceived".

On April 15 2016, eight activists were acquitted on the basis that they were seeking to prevent greater crimes such as torture and the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians in places such as Yemen, Kurdistan, Palestine and Bahrain.

In making his judgement, District Judge Angus Hamilton held that there was “clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015". Following the verdict, the CPS had sought to appeal the acquittal to the High Court.

In rejecting the appeal, Judge Hamilton said: "The CPS application repeatedly significantly misrepresents the contents of the judgement delivered at the end of the case and therefore seeks to challenge the decisions reached on wholly erroneous bases... the very least the CPS should do is read the judgement fully and, if appropriate, frame their application based on what was actually decided rather than what they seem to believe was decided."

The defendants in the case were: Isa Al-Aali (from Bahrain), Angela Ditchfield, Lisa Butler,, Thomas Franklin and  Susannah Mengesha (all from the UK), Javier Garate Neidhart (from Chile), Luis Tinoco Torrejon (from Peru) and Bram Vranken (from Belgium).

In a joint public statement the defendants’ campaign said: "Win or lose, we have throughout remained wholeheartedly at peace with our actions to try and shut down the fair. We choose to remain on the side of history that rejects the facilitation of torture and mass indiscriminate killing for corporate profit. As ever, our only regret is that we didn’t stop the arms fair. As fresh evidence continues to emerge of the suffering caused by arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other brutal regimes the UK government's position grows increasingly untenable. The dictators are set to return to our doorstep in September 2017. Through direct action and using a diversity of tactics we can all act to shut down the DSEI arms fair – next year and for good."

The UK has continued to support Saudi air strikes in Yemen and provide arms despite overwhelming evidence of repeated breaches of international humanitarian law.

Samantha Broadley from Bindmans Solicitors, which represented one of the defendants, said: "We hope that now the CPS has failed in appealing the basis upon which the defendants were acquitted, the prosecuting authorities will divert their time, energy and resources into investigating those alleged to have been involved in very serious crimes."

The DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) arms fair takes place every two years in London's Docklands, and is jointly organised by Clarion Events and the UK Government. Buyers include countries involved in conflict and from human rights abusing regimes. Exhibitors attend from around the world, including most of the world's largest arms companies, displaying arms ranging from rifles to tanks, fighter jets, battleships, missiles, military electronics, surveillance and riot control equipment.

The DSEI arms fair is set to return to East London in September 2017, and this case has served to fuel the increasing momentum against it. It is anticipated that resistance against the next DSEI arms fair may be bigger than ever.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: "The case should never have gone to court in the first place. The arms trade is an illegitimate and immoral trade, and governments like the UK, and events like DSEI, are at the heart of it. That is why we need to mobilise the biggest possible opposition when it returns to London next year. DSEI fuels war and human rights abuses. It can’t be tweaked or altered; it needs to be shut down for good."

*Campaign against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/

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