EIGHT ANTI-ARMS FAIR ACTIVISTS ACQUITTED OF CHARGES
- All defendants arrested during setting up of the 2015 DSEI Arms Fair in London Docklands
- Activists attempted to blockade deliveries of military equipment to UK government sponsored exhibition
- District Judge hears evidence of UK involvement in aggravating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen conflict, human rights abuses in Bahrain and the slaughter of Kurdish civilians by Turkey
The trial of 8 activists arrested during the September 2015 protest against the DSEI arms fair ended today with District Judge Angus Hamilton acquitting them of all charges.
Isa Al-Aali (from Bahrain), Angela Ditchfield (from the UK), Lisa Butler (from the UK), Thomas Franklin (from the UK), Javier Gárate Neidhardt (from Chile), Susannah Mengesha (from the UK), Luis Tinoco Torrejon (from Peru) and Bram Vranken (from Belgium) all denied wilful obstruction of the highway.
The court heard evidence about the brutality of Turkey against its Kurdish population. The Turkish state has declared 63 open-ended, round-the-clock curfews on many Kurdish cities since August 2015, using snipers, tanks and rockets to repress civilians, killing hundreds and internally displacing hundreds of thousands. Turkey's Exporters' Association was the International Partner of DSEI 2015 and sent a government and military delegation to the arms fair.
Kat Hobbs, outreach co-ordinator at Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) also provided expert witness testimony that in the three years prior to the Arab Spring in 2011, UK arms contracts to Bahrain had been worth £6 million. Since that time UK arms exports to Bahrain have reached £45 million, drawing the conclusion that these weapons have been used to suppress civilian protesters demanding greater democracy. Bahrain had been invited by the UK Government to previous DSEI exhibitions in 2009, 2013 and 2015 despite the regime using weapons against pro-democracy protests.
The court heard further evidence of UK manufactured arms being sold to Saudi Arabia. UK-made equipment has been used extensively in the Saudi attacks on Yemen, including BAE Systems fighter jets and Raytheon’s Paveway bombs. The UK has licensed £2.8 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi since the bombing of Yemen began. Hobbs testified that munitions originally destined for the Royal Air Force had been redirected to Saudi.
The UK is complicit in creating the refugee crisis by arming the countries who are causing and profiting from it. The arms trade is a root cause of this crisis. Instead of building fences, detaining people, denying them their human rights at the borders and causing deaths with UK policies and actions, the UK must stop the arms trade, including events such as DSEI.
The defendants admitted to the fact of blocking the highway but relied on a defence that they acted to prevent greater crimes.
In delivering comments on his judgement DJ Hamilton said:
“Clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015. It was not appropriately investigated by the authorities. This could be inferred from the responses of the police officers, that they did not take the defendants’ allegations seriously.”
In a joint statement the defendants said:
"We were compelled to try to prevent war, repression, torture and genocide and we stand by our actions.
We do not believe that we should have been on trial this week and denounce the UK government’s complicity and actions in supporting the arms trade; and in perpetuating war and repression around the world. We oppose the sale of arms based on corporate greed and profit and seek radical change.
We come from the UK, Bahrain, Belgium, Chile and Peru in the believe that as the arms trade takes place at a global scale, our resistance has to be global and it should have no borders.
Over the week, we have put DSEI and the arms trade on trial and we have proven them to be illegitimate. Our only regret is that we didn’t succeed in shutting down DSEI.
Our thoughts are with the people who suffer as a result of the arms trade and the survivors of repressive regimes, torture, war and conflict. We call on more people to join us in our efforts to shut down DSEI 2017 and take collective action to end the arms trade.
We also express our solidarity with DPRTE Cardiff arms fair defendants who are also currently facing trial. We will continue to actively oppose DSEI and the arms trade."
The defendants were represented in court by Kellys Solicitors of Brighton, Hodge Jones & Allen of London and Bindmans Solicitors of London.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
The defendants’ campaign can be reached for comment at:
Vyara Gylsen - 07543281020
More information about the DSEI arms fair can be found at:
· Stop the Arms Fair: www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/about/dsei/
· Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT): www.caat.org.uk