News in brief

Vanunu in court

Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was, at the time of going to press, waiting to be sentenced after being found guilty in January of talking to two US citizens in East Jerusalem without permission from the Israeli authorities.

This breached conditions imposed after Vanunu was released from prison in 2004. He had served 18 years in prison for telling the world about Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

Vanunu is waiting to hear about his latest appeal to quash these conditions, which also prevent him from leaving Israel. The Israeli government argues that Vanunu remains a security risk because of his employment in Israel’s nuclear weapons factory over 31 years ago.

Resisters in Bangor

On 7 March, 13 members of the Pacific Life Community were arrested amid snow and rain as they blockaded the Pacific home port of the US Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet, during the community’s annual gathering.

Seven people were in the road on the state side of the line, blocking the main gate into the Kitsap-Bangor naval base, Washington state. They were arrested for ‘leaving the kerb’. Six others were arrested for trespass after they crossed the marked property line onto the federal side and read out sections of the Nuremberg Principles.

More info from the fabulous Nuclear Resister:

Sword into hoe

On 16 March, James Dowling of the Brisbane Catholic Workers pleaded not guilty at Brisbane magistrates court. He said that he had not ‘wilfully damaged’ a metal sword attached to a large stone crucifix known as the ‘Cross of Sacrifice’, a war memorial which has stood since 1924 by the gates of Brisbane’s Toowong cemetery.

Dowling told reporters after the hearing: ‘The damage was done when the sword was put on a cross, that is wilful damage. We tried to repair that damage. We took that sword off the cross.’

On 1 March, Dowling handed the sword to Tim Webb, also charged with wilful damage, who put it on an anvil and hammered it into a garden hoe.

Trial is set for 26 April. We were put onto this story by the wonderful Nuclear Resister:

Banners into archive

The Peace Museum in Bradford is asking for placards, leaflets, badges and banners used in peaceful protests, vigils or demonstrations for an exhibition later this year. Please contact them: Bradford Peace Museum, 10 Piece Hall Yard, Bradford BD1 1PJ; 01274 780 241;

Take action!

On 26 January, the hands of the Doomsday Clock moved 30 seconds closer to catastrophe.

‘It is two and a half minutes to midnight’, announced the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, warning that ‘world leaders were failing to act with the speed and on the scale required to protect citizens from the extreme danger posed by climate change and nuclear war’.

In 2016, according to the board, ‘the international community did not take the steps needed to begin the path toward a net zero-carbon-emissions world.’

‘Progress in reducing the overall threat of nuclear war has stalled – and in many ways, gone into reverse.’ The group mentioned Russian missile- and sub-building, and US plans to upgrade bombers, land-based missiles, and missile-carrying subs, adding new capabilities.

Some action taken

With the trial that concluded just after last issue went to press, all 13 people charged during the Trident Ploughshares June month of action at the Burghfield nuclear bomb factory in Berkshire have now had their cases resolved (all at Reading magistrates court).

On 19 October, Helen Swanston was found guilty of obstructing the highway and was given 12 months conditional discharge plus costs of £215. She had locked onto a vehicle parked across the northern end of ‘The Mearings’, a ministry of defence road, on 7 June.

Three Finns arrested with Helen did not return to the UK for the trial.

On 14 October, Mary Millington was found guilty of ‘making unauthorised highway markings’, and ‘going equipped for criminal damage’. She was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £200 compensation to West Berkshire district council.

Mary sprayed ‘Stop The Deadly Convoys’ on Reading Road, a public road leading to Burghfield, on 28 June. She was then arrested in possession of a can of red spray paint and a pair of boltcroppers.

On 14 December, Ellis Brooks, Gillian Lawrence and Sam Donaldson (part of a Quaker group called ‘No Faith In Trident’) had the charge of ‘aggravated trespass’ dismissed, as the most senior police officer present at the scene had not formed his own ‘reasonable belief’ as to the commission of the offence, but was merely following orders from elsewhere.

On 26 January, Jo Frew, Alison Parker, Angela Kalinzi-Ditchfield, Nina Carter-Brown and Nicholas Cooper were found guilty of highway obstruction. They were each given a six month conditional discharge and £120 court costs.

The five, a Catholic group called ‘Put Down The Sword’, had lain across the northern end of The Mearings locked on to each other through lock-on tubes.

The Quakers and Catholics both took action on 27 June last year.

Info from Trident Ploughshares:

Nepal crisis

On 6 March, three unarmed men were shot dead by Nepali police at a Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) demonstration in Janakpur, Saptari province.

The Nepali peace process may be sliding back towards large-scale unrest as a Maoist-led government fails to make good on its promises of constitutional reform to address the grievances of the Madhesi people of the low-lying Terai region.

On 19 March, the SLMM coalition of Madhesh-based parties escalated their protests by padlocking all municipal and village council offices in Saptari district.

The SLMM are demanding constitutional amendments giving them equality with other ethnic minorities in Nepal, before local elections take place on 14 May.

Western Sahara

Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy has been carrying out more seismic studies with its partner Kosmos Energy off the coast of occupied Western Sahara, says Western Sahara Resources Watch (WSRW).

The territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975, and drilling for oil in Western Sahara is illegal without the consent of the Saharawi people.

WSRW has also drawn attention to UK-French ‘ethical investment’ company Vigeo Eiris, which has certified green bonds for two illegal Moroccan energy projects in Western Sahara.

Vigeo Eiris has a London office at the Ethical Property Company’s Foundry building in London.


On 20 March, Human Rights Watch reported on the Turkish government’s repression of Kurdish political parties which jailed 13 members of parliament and elected mayors and took control of 82 municipalities in the Kurdish southeast.

The Turkish authorities have detained over 9,000 party officials of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and its regional sister party, Democratic Regions Party (DBP). This has limited their campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the 16 April referendum on creating a presidential system to entrench the power of current leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

‘Human Rights Watch has examined the criminal indictments against 11 HDP members of parliament and decisions to detain them pending trial. The evidence cited in the indictments consists mainly of political speeches rather than any conduct that could reasonably support charges of membership of an armed organization or separatism.’

HRW examined the 500-page indictment against Selahattin Demirtas, HDP co-leader and member of parliament for Istanbul: ‘the evidence cited against Demirtas consists mainly of his speeches... none of the information seems to point to anything approaching criminal activity.’