The Electronic Intifada / January 28, 2022
UK government prosecutors dropped criminal charges against a member of the direct action group, only one day before trial. Palestine Action campaigns against Israeli drone giant Elbit, which has nine remaining factories and offices in the UK.
Romford Magistrates Court in East London had been set to hear the case on Thursday.
But prosecutors dropped the case, conceding that there had been no “realistic prospect of conviction”.
This marks the third major legal victory for the campaigners since December, when the group’s first ever trial ended in complete acquittal.
The magistrate was convinced by the three activists’ argument that the damage they had caused to Elbit’s Shenstone factory near Birmingham was proportionate in order to prevent a greater crime in Palestine. He found all three not guilty.
And earlier this month, Palestine Action succeeded in forcing Elbit to sell one of its 10 UK factories. Nine remain.
In their second major legal win, last week three more Palestine Action campaigners had their charges dropped on the eve of trial at Birmingham Magistrates Court.
No wonder the Crown Prosecution Service this week decided that there was an unrealistic prospect of conviction against Palestine Action in London too.
The decision is even more extraordinary considering the events that had transpired in Shenstone on Monday this week.
On that day, Palestine Action chose to press its advantage and return to the same factory in Shenstone which was the focus of its first two legal victories.
Activists then spent hours causing what looked like thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to the UAV Engines factory – an Elbit subsidiary which makes parts for its killer drones.
They smashed parts of the factory roof, and demolished some of the building brick by brick. The group tweeted out some astonishing videos and photos throughout the day.
The activists made such large holes in the roof that they were able to throw in objects causing more damage inside the building to what appeared to be drone engines.
Six activists were arrested Monday afternoon and released on bail the same evening. They have yet to be charged.
In video statements the next day, the activists explained why they had taken direct action against the killer drone parts factory. “A victory for the Intifada is a victory for humanity,” said one.
The activist whose charges were dropped on Wednesday had last year allegedly sprayed blood-red paint into the entrance of the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair, or DSEI.
“Once again, charges have been dropped,” Palestine Action said on Friday. “It is the war criminals inside the arms fair that should be arrested and tried – not the brave individuals taking action to expose them.”
Elbit had been one of the many arms firms exhibiting at the trade fair.
Meanwhile, at Elbit’s smashed Shenstone factory on Monday, one of the activists’ signs read: “One down, nine to go.”
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London