Catholic priest jailed after anti-war service outside MoD

By staff writers
May 2, 2007
Protestors praying under the watchful gaze of police outside MoD

A Catholic priest has been jailed following a peace protest against the Iraq war.

Fr Martin Newell was yesterday sentenced to fourteen days in prison after refusing to pay a fine following a short service he held with other Christians outside the Ministry of Defence.

On December 28 2004, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, seven people held prayers for peace and began digging in the lawn outside the MoD opposite Downing Street. They were making it into a symbolic war cemetery in memory of those who had died in Iraq.

Fr Martin was arrested by police as he was writing: Remember the Innocent; Stop the War and other captions on the wall of the MoD. Six other protesters were also arrested.

Fr Martin was found guilty of criminal damage at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, Westminster and ordered to pay £660 compensation to the MoD.

Another protester, Chris Cole also refused to pay compensation and recently spent two weeks in HMP Wandsworth.

Before sentencing Fr Newell stated: "I work with refugees. I see the effects of wars daily. Jesus said 'whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me,' and the war in Iraq is killing our brothers and sisters."

In a statement Fr Newell said: "Herod had the innocent killed in order to maintain his power and control. This US / UK led war is about exactly the same thing: protecting our national interests,, which is to say, keeping control of oil resources, maintaining power and deterring others who may seek to go their own way. And the innocent suffer in ever greater numbers. The latest estimates are of a million people dying and child malnutrition rising fifty per cent since the invasion.

"In the past governments and armies needed young men to go to war for them. But with today's high technology warfare, all they need is our silence and our taxes. We should refuse them and withdraw co-operation. This is why we have refused to pay our fines. We are calling for an immediate the end to the occupation. We are calling for a step up in protest to and direct resistance to this war. And we are calling on the Catholic Bishops and all church and faith leaders to be at the forefront of the campaign to end this unjust, inhuman and un-winnable war."

Fr Martin Newell cp, 39, is a member of the Passionist order, and has been missioned to work with the London Catholic Worker. He is 39, and has been a priest for 10 years. He lives in Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Hackney.

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