Middle East Monitor / October 6, 2023
A British activist affiliated with Palestine Action was acquitted of charges related to criminal damage against cladding manufacturer Arconic, which produces materials used to make fighter jets for the Israeli army and the highly flammable material that led to the Grenfell Tower fire.
The verdict was reached unanimously by a jury following a trial presided over by Judge S. Ward at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
The jury deliberated for a duration of 3 hours and 25 minutes, considering whether 21-year-old Sohail Sultan’s action, which incurred costs exceeding £500,000 ($619,000) for Arconic, was undertaken to safeguard property in Palestine and/or as a necessary measure to preserve lives.
The verdict follows the activist’s two-day occupation of the rooftop and the subsequent dismantling of the site, which coincided with the fourth anniversary of the Grenfell fire, which killed 72 residents of the high-rise block of flats in London. This action was taken in solidarity with both the Grenfell fire victims and the Palestinian population.
Throughout the occupation at Arconic Kitt’s Green Road, the local community rallied in significant numbers to show their support, and the fire service declined to cooperate with the police in removing Sohail from the rooftop.
During the four-day trial, Sohail stood by his actions and stated he had no regrets. In response to the questioning by the prosecution, he said: “It’s one thing to stand on the ground, wave a flag and hope it makes the news; it’s another to stand on a roof and stop the production of F-35 fighter jets that kill innocent people.”
Following his acquittal, Sohail told MEMO: “I’m over the moon right now about the acquittal, but I cannot stress enough that it was a communal effort.”
“The support from fellow change-makers within Palestine Action, my barrister Hamish McCallum, friends, family and various people from the community around the world came together to challenge Arconic’s disregard for human life.”
“From Palestine to West London, from Birmingham to Kashmir, I hope that this acquittal shows that direct action is not a crime when corporations like Arconic and Elbit System are killing our people and harvesting the profits. I want to emphasise that we in Birmingham will never accept that as our status quo and we demand justice and arrests made for those individuals who contributed to the Grenfell Tower fire.”
The Arconic factory supplies various materials, including sheet metal, to manufacture Boeing and Lockheed Martin military aircraft used by the Israeli occupation’s military in its assaults against Gaza.
A spokesperson from Palestine Action told MEMO: “This court victory demonstrates public agreement with taking direct action against corporate killers and companies who arm Israel’s apartheid regime. Although there have been many attempts by state actors and the Israeli embassy to deter such court victories, the resilience shown by our actionists and the truth of the evils they were fighting against, has overcome those challenges. As a collective, we will continue to fight in solidarity with Palestine and shut down the Israeli war machine in Britain.”