Creating new perspectives since 2009

Palestine Action activists found not guilty of criminal damage

May 24, 2024 at 4:16 pm

Four Palestine Action activists scaled the rooftop of Elbit System’s client the Good Packing Company from 19 May 2021 in protest of Israel’s airstrikes over Gaza [Guy Smallman/PalestineAction]

Two activists from Palestine Action have been unanimously acquitted of criminal damage by a jury at Leicester Crown Court. The jury deliberated for 1 hour 40 minutes.

For six days from 19 May 2021, four people occupied the roof of UAV Tactical Systems, an Elbit drone factory just outside the English city of Leicester. The action was taken as an urgent response to the then ongoing Israeli onslaught against Gaza. Whilst on the roof, the activists spray painted messages including “Shut Elbit Down” and “Free Palestine”; damaged a skylight to reveal a military drone inside the factory; and sprayed the building in blood red paint. In total, it was claimed that the knock-on costs of extra security since the action amount to £40,000 of losses per month, totalling £1.6 million.

Three days into the action, two of the four activists came down off the roof in order to ration food and water supplies. The jury heard from one defendant about how the two who remained on the roof and were subsequently charged, resorted to drinking rainwater so that they could maintain the disruption for as long as possible in order to try to save lives in Palestine.

The defendant explained that the factory is majority owned by the Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems, and was used to assemble drone equipment for the Israeli military. He also pointed out the ways in which Elbit’s drones are deployed in Gaza. Between the defence and prosecution, the agreed facts of the case against the activists included the factory’s export licences covered drones going to Israel for use by the state of Israel.

Referring to reports by Drone Wars and Human Rights Watch, the defendant noted the numerous war crimes which have been committed in Gaza using Elbit’s drones, leading to deliberate massacres of the Palestinian people. The jury also heard about how hundreds of people from the local community supported the action, several of whom were arrested for attempting to throw drinking water to the activists on the roof.

The defence argued that the action taken was necessary in order to save lives and prevent even greater property damage in Palestine. In her closing speech, Mira Hammad from Garden Court North Chambers told the jury that, The consequences of failing to act would mean the death of children, parents, grandparents in Palestine.” Prioritising Elbit’s right to property over Palestinians’ right to live was, she said, a “smokescreen of dehumanisation.”

The prosecution case was led by Louis Mably KC, instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service. The defence barristers Owen Greenhall from Garden Court Chambers and Mira Hammad were instructed by Kelly’s Solicitors in Brighton. The judge in the trial was Judge Keith Raynor.

Palestine Action is a direct-action network of groups and individuals formed to take action against the sites of Elbit Systems and other companies complicit in Israeli apartheid. The network calls for all such sites in the UK to be shut down.

WATCH: ICJ orders Israel ‘to immediately halt’ Rafah offensive