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UK Court acquits five pro-Palestine activists for direct action against Israel arms manufacturer

Palestine Action activists occupy the balcony at the offices of Israeli arms company Elbit Systems on August 6, 2021 in London, England [Guy Smallman/Getty Images]
Palestine Action activists occupy the balcony at the offices of Israeli arms company Elbit Systems in England, UK on 6 August 2021 [Guy Smallman/Getty Images]

Five pro-Palestine activists have been acquitted of the charge of "conspiracy to commit criminal damage" after a unanimous jury verdict in Southwark Crown Court in London. The defendants, who pleaded "not guilty" prior to the hearing, had to wait two years to be heard. They were acquitted of conspiracy to commit criminal damage for throwing red paint over the London HQ of an Israeli arms manufacturer.

The case was the first trial involving members of the direct-action group, Palestine Action, to be heard in the Crown Court. Members of the group took direct action against Elbit's headquarters at 77 Kingsway in Holborn, London. They leapt out of a car with buckets of paint and modified fire extinguishers to drown Elbit's offices in red, creating a "river of blood" that ran down the street. The act symbolised the blood of the Palestinian people spilled by Elbit Systems, Israel's largest arms supplier.

Read: Palestine Action acquitted in first trial: Hope for anti-drone protest strategy

During the 7-day trial, the Palestine Actionists shared their experiences with the jury. Some explained why they took part, and why forcing Elbit Systems out of Britain is an imperative and moral duty. Others shared their experiences in Palestine, having witnessed, first-hand, how Elbit's weaponry was being used to oppress and dehumanise the indigenous population. Others explained the intricate details of Elbit's wide-ranging weaponry, and how the Company is directly responsible for multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity.

According to Palestine Action's press release, the Prosecution alleged that the Kingsway 5, which is the name given to the five activists, had conspired to damage Elbit's premises in a premeditated attack. Their actions were described as "almost military", accusing the activists of using "improvised weapons".  Palestine Action said their activists were not armed with anything except buckets of red paint and fire extinguishers.

Read: Palestine Action activists squirt Balfour statue with fake blood

The defendants maintained that their actions were taken out of necessity, to prevent the crimes of the Israeli military and to stop the increasing destruction and suffering inflicted by Elbit's "smart" weaponry. Their actions, they said, were conscientious: how could we not act in the face of Elbit's abhorrent crimes?

"We wanted to raise awareness of the war criminal hiding behind these doors," one of the defendants said in their witness testimony. "We wanted to be part of the movement to shut Elbit down and save Palestinian lives. If my actions can save a family, or stop a bomb that would otherwise have fallen on Gaza, then it was worthwhile."

Refuting the Prosecution argument that there was no possible connection between direct action in Britain and the saving of lives in Palestine, Palestine Action said that two years of direct action had successfully forced Elbit to abandon their Kingsway headquarters. The closure apparently cost the Company huge amounts in damages, security costs, unwanted public exposure and substantial negative press.

This is the first time Palestine Action has been heard in a Crown Court by a jury of twelve. The acquittal of the activists has been heralded as an unprecedented victory.

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Europe & RussiaIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestineUK
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