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Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) are increasingly concerned about the erosion of civil and human rights in the UK especially when it comes to actions in support of justice for Palestinians. In recent weeks two activists from Palestine Action (PA) have been sentenced to 27 and 16 months for their action to dismantle and occupy an Israeli weapons factory. Four Palestine Action activists are awaiting sentencing having been found guilty of “possession of articles to cause criminal damage” in Wolverhampton Crown Court. The Judge Michael Chambers ruled out any ‘justification’ defences, meaning that defendants were unable to defend their actions on the basis of preventing the greater crime.
There is a history of occupying and dismantling weapons factories in the UK. It is also the case that when juries have been given the chance to hear the reasoning behind the actions, they have often returned verdicts of not guilty.
In 2008 six Derry anti-war protesters were unanimously acquitted of destroying the property of arms company Raytheon. The jury heard that, following repeated Israeli bombing of Lebanese property in which numerous civilians died, the group of anti-war protestors forced their way into the Raytheon plant in Derry and caused significant damage to its server and computers.
In 2010 seven Palestine campaigners who admitted smashing up a Brighton weapons factory during Israel’s assault on Gaza were unanimously acquitted of “conspiracy to cause criminal damage”. The jury at Hove Crown Court agreed with the defendants that their actions were a necessary, direct, and proportionate response to the manufacture of weapons in the U.K for use by the Israeli airforce.
The defence case that action taken was to prevent a greater crime is fundamental to British Law and it is only right and fair that it continues to be allowed in these cases. The systematic erosion of our hard-won rights to take direct action is not new and has been a major target of every government in recent years.
Yasmine Ahmed, UK director at Human Rights Watch has said “In 2022, we saw the most significant assault on human rights protections in the UK in decades… From your right to protest to your ability to hold institutions to account”.
SPSC fully supports the PA’s inspiring campaign. It is clear that such direct action and civil disobedience plays an important role in providing effective solidarity with Palestinians as well as contributing hugely to the international BDS campaign against Apartheid Israel. We applaud the great courage shown by activists especially where there is a high risk of arrest and prosecution.