Middle East Monitor / September 26, 2022
Charges have been dropped against five UK Palestine Action activists concerning alleged criminal damage and aggregated trespass for causing the shut-down of the Shenstone factory of Israel’s largest arms company. The activists had been due in court last week for a plea hearing for protesting against Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems in Shenstone in July, but they have been allowed to walk free. The charges were dropped due to an “unrealistic chance of conviction,” said Palestine Action.
The Elbit factory in question makes engines for UAVs — drones — which are used against Palestinian civilians. The five had been charged with criminal damage and aggravated trespass on 22 August, following their arrest in July when they locked themselves to the gates of the factory which was shut down as a result. Red paint used by the group to symbolize the blood of Palestinians killed and wounded by Elbit drones was sprayed over the factory premises and gates, and inside the gate security office.
This is not the first time that an “unrealistic chance of conviction” has led to charges being dropped against Palestine Action activists. Four walked free in February after shutting down Elbit’s Shenstone factory. The charges were dropped after three activists were acquitted at Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates Court in December 2021 for locking themselves to the gates and throwing paint at the same factory in January of the same year.
Elbit is said to supply over 85 per cent of Israel’s drone fleet. It uses the Shenstone site for the manufacture of drone engines and parts, including the Watchkeeper drone sold to the British government for use in foreign military interventions. Palestine Action says that the drones are also used for surveillance and repression of migrants and others by the UK’s Border Force and police agencies.
“Even though they were discourteous enough to drop the charges ‘after’ I booked my train tickets,” said an activist called Randeep, “this further confirms what we already knew: we are not the criminals, and frustrating Israel’s colonization of Palestine is not only a moral duty but a legally sound one.”
The group’s statement confirmed that, to date, no Palestine Action activist has been convicted for shutting down an Elbit Systems site; all have been either acquitted, seen their charges dropped or had their cases thrown out by judges. While the Crown Prosecution Service, police and Elbit’s lawyers have been working to get activists imprisoned, and thus silence those standing up to the company whose products are used in contempt of international law, both Palestine Action and the courts have demonstrated that the “crimes” of the activists pale in comparison with the war crimes committed by Israel using Elbit’s drones.
Another Palestine activist is due to appear at Manchester Magistrates Court today, 26 September, charged with “highway obstruction”.