The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is preparing for a long succession of trials involving at least 40 activists from Palestine solidarity movements.
Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private arms company with a UK subsidiary HQ in London, has faced opposition from activists for years. The company’s factories manufacture drones for the Israeli military, which are used to kill civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As a result of recent efforts by the Palestine Action campaign, the company was forced to permanently close two factories in the UK.
Due to start in the last two weeks, trials against activists opposing the company are being postponed. Eight activists were due to stand trial for conspiracy to blackmail. Two others were to appear for a three-day trial for criminal damage, after locking on the entrance of Elbit’s London HQ, preventing access, and spraying the building in blood-red paint. A further three had their trial postponed due to the CPS’ failure to submit evidence. This string of postponed trials came after the CPS dropped criminal damage and aggravated trespass charges against five activists due to an ‘unrealistic prospect of conviction’.
In 2015, a case against nine individuals protesting against Elbit collapsed due to the CPS’ inability to disclose details of licences for arms exports to Israel; either due to Elbit’s unwillingness to testify in court, or due to the government being unwilling to disclose information.
While activists persist, they fear the recent court of appeal judgment on the Colston 4 case will tip the scales against them in future trials. The judgment limits the use of human rights arguments as a viable defence when facing a charge of criminal damage.
At least 40 activists have trials scheduled in the coming months. This is only a minor aspect of the UK’s suppression of Palestinian activism, and a small element of the backdrop to the government’s recent approach to curtailing political actions and demonstration rights.
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