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Charges dropped against campaigners who intended to put arms fair 'on trial'

Andrew Smith | 21.02.2014 09:56 | Anti-militarism

The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped charges against six activists arrested during a four hour blockade of London's DSEI arms fair on 8 September 2014, in which the activists blocked one entrance with their bodies using “lock-ons” and blockaded an HGV at the other entrance. The protest saw military equipment turned away in the final hours of the arms fair's set up.

The decision to drop the charges, announced on Tuesday 18 February 2014, came one week before the case was due to be heard at Stratford Magistrate's Court. Charges included obstruction of the highway and obstructing a police officer.

DSEI arms fair faced daily direct action when it took place on 10-13 September 2013. Syrian President Assad's main arms suppliers were among the 1489 exhibitors. Buyers included some of the world's most repressive regimes. Two arms companies were expelled from the fair after campaigners exposed they were promoting illegal torture equipment.

The activists intended to pursue a justification defence, bringing expert evidence from Amnesty International that “there have been specific breaches of UK arms export control legislation at every DSEi fair since 2005”. Freedom of Information requests and attempts to get disclosure of enforcement action through the courts have been thwarted, suggesting that no criminal investigations took place against the companies committing crimes inside the arms fair.

Commenting on the CPS' decision, the activists said:

“We intervened to stop the set up of the arms fair and to prevent crimes of torture and crimes against humanity and war crimes from taking place. It seems that the case against us was dropped as the authorities do not want to have to deal with our questions.

“We are opposed to militarisation and opposed to the business of war – in which the UK government and arms companies are key players. It’s not a cause for celebration that the case against us has been dropped. The celebration will come when the arms fair has been shut down for good.”

Their solicitor, Raj Chada, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen said:

“Whilst it is welcome that the case against our clients has been dropped, the real issue is why these arms companies have been allowed to act with impunity – We have written to the CPS, HMRC, Attorney General and the Home Secretary to demand that why those that promote these unlawful weapons aren’t being prosecuted – total policing does not seem to apply if you are an arms dealer.”

The CPS' decision follows a not guilty verdict on 4 February for five Christian activists who blocked access to the fair on its opening morning. However, it is expected that a case against two people who refused to leave the road to allow access to the arms fair at the same protest on 8 September will go ahead on 25 February.

Andrew Smith
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