News in brief

Welsh campaigners fight rig plans

On 17 February, around 100 people marched through Aberystwyth in protest against the proposed issuing of DTI licences to explore for oil in conservation areas off the Welsh coast.

Local campaigners SOS called the march, hot on the heels of handing in a 2400-signature petition to Downing Street on 6 February. According to the campaign's website, the petition was presented to tell the government that the people of mid and west Wales will not take the granting of licences to explore for gas off the coast “lying down”. SOS have been working with political parties and NGOs, including Friends of the Earth and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, “to raise public awareness of the plans, which could lead to drilling rigs conservation areas”.

Watada walks ... for now...

On 7 February, the court martial of US army officer Ehren Watada ended in a mistrial when the military judge halted the case due to inconsistencies in a pre-trial agreement, which had been accepted by both prosecution and defence a week before the trial.

Despite the objections of the defence team, the judge granted a prosecution motion for mistrial. The army subsequently announced 19 March as the new trial date. However, according to Watada's attorney, “The mistrial is very likely to have the consequence of ending this case because double jeopardy may prevent ... a retrial”. In June 2006, First Lieutenant Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the Iraq War and occupation. In theory, he faces up to four years' imprisonment.

Arrest during Rossport solidarity action

On 30 January, in protest against Shell's pipeline and refinery plans in Ireland (see PN2482), a man scaled the outside of the Irish embassy in London and dropped a banner reading “Ba choir naire a bheith ort” - “You should be ashamed”.

He was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage. A fortnight later, Irish campaigners Shell to Sea called for solidarity actions and organised a “peaceful carnival and non-confrontational march” from the Glenamoy Bridge to the refinery site gates on 16 February. After the official protest had ended, around 100 people reportedly crossed the bog to gain access to the refinery and succeeded in halting work. The same day in Scotland, activists shut down eight Shell petrol stations in and around Edinburgh, using emergency shut down levers, saying “Shell has been shut down today in Solidarity with the innocent people around the world that have been subject to their bullying and use of violence”. The Irish Times reported in early February that more than e3m has been spent on gardai' to defend Shell's site at Bellanaboy.