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Caterkiller activist defends right to protest

Brett Cohen | 18.12.2005 14:34 | Anti-militarism | Anti-racism | Repression | Birmingham | South Coast

A peace activist has successfully appealed against a conviction for criminal damage after being driven in to by a Caterkiller employee. He was arrested for scratching the cars paintwork when he landed on the bonnet.

A Brighton peace activist successfully appealed against his conviction for criminal damage in Warwick Crown Court on Friday Dec 16 after the prosecution failed to provide any evidence or reliable witnesses. (Fri Dec116).

Simon Levin, 31, from Brighton was arrested at a protest outside Caterpillar’s European Headquarters in Solihull last year. Caterpillar makes and sells armoured bulldozers to the Israeli Military, which are used to destroy Palestinian homes and food supplies and to build the apartheid wall.

Simon had been accused of criminal damage after John Jones, financial credit controller at Caterpillar, drove his car in to the protester who was subsequently arrested for scratching the cars paintwork after landing on the bonnet. Simon said: “We had set up a military checkpoint as a piece of street theatre, I guess Mr Jones decided to play the part of a D-9 bulldozer driver.”

On 17 January 2005 he was convicted at Solihull Magistrates Court. The conviction has also been raised at an unrelated

Pam Rose, Counsel for the defence made short work of John Jones when he was called to the stand and after the offer of police evidence was dismissed as “hearsay” by Judge Richard Cole the trial was effectively over. Counsel for the prosecution, Antonie Sean Muller, declared that “in the light of public interest and not wishing to waste more public money the Prosecution would withdraw their case.”

The trial lasted just one and a half hours. Mr Levin is now considering his legal options. Alex Smith, a noodle chef, from Birmingham said: “Justice has been served.”
Simon Brown, self-employed, from Suffolk said: “Considering the nature of the arrest it is ludicrous that it got this far.”

The aim of the protest had been to inform the workers at Caterpillar of the letter sent to the directors of Caterpillar by Mr Jean Ziegler (cor), UN High Commissioner on Human Right’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, stating: “ Caterpillar's actions in supplying the D-9 and D-10 bulldozers mean they may be complicit in violating the right to food. Human lives had also been lost during the demolitions”, including that of American peace activist Rachel Corrie (cor).

The company's role in supplying Israel has also been criticised by human rights group Amnesty International. In a report on Palestinian home demolitions, they called on Caterpillar to "guarantee that its bulldozers are not used to commit human rights violations".

In a statement on its website, Caterpillar says it "shares the world's concern over unrest in the Middle East and certainly have compassion for all those affected by political strife".

Nevertheless, it has "neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of its equipment.”


Brett Cohen
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