News in brief

TP titbits

On 12 July, two Trident Ploughshares (TP) campaigners were put in prison after refusing bail conditions. Brian Quail (79), a retired teacher from Glasgow; and Angie Zelter (66), a peace and environmental campaigner from Knighton in Wales, were both remanded in custody by Dumbarton sheriff court until 3 August.

Brian and Angie had both refused to accept a bail condition barring them from going within 100m of the Coulport nuclear weapon store and the Faslane nuclear submarine base. Angie argued that she had no intention of lying in the roadway again but had every right to protest at the bases.

The two had been held overnight with three others: Sam Donaldson (29), a community worker from Hull; Almudena Izquierdo Olmo (60), a worker at the University Politécnica in Madrid; and Juan Carlos Navarro Diaz (76), a librarian from the Canary Islands. The three were released after accepting the bail conditions.

The five had been arrested on 11 July for blocking the road leading to the Coulport depot for two and a half hours, from 7am till 9.30am.

A trial is due on 3 August for a breach of the peace.

The action was part of a Trident Ploughshares (TP) disarmament camp running from 8–16 July.

One of the things that happened during the camp was the testing of the marine boundaries around Coulport on Loch Long by campaigners in a canoe and an inflatable kayak (flying a CND flag).

On 13 July, two groups of TP protesters blockaded Coulport for over two hours. One group lay in the roadway joined to each other through lock-on tubes. The others, wearing carnival costume, occupied an alternative access route.

The four people in the lock-on group were eventually removed and arrested on a charge of breach of the peace. Those arrested were: Peter Anderson (60), from Wales; Esa Noresvuo (26) and Kaj Raninen (50), both from Helsinki; and Jamie Watson (35), from Glasgow.

All four were held overnight and released the next day, Esa Noresvuo not till 5pm. He had to wait for Reading court to fax Dunbarton court to confirm that they didn’t want to pursue the ‘hold’ they had on him for his last UK arrest at AWE Burghfield.

Trident Ploughshares is a network of affinity groups, of activists who have pledged to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system in a nonviolent, open, peaceful, safe and fully-accountable manner.

If you would like to write to the prisoners before 3 August, here are the addresses:

Brian Quail, Number 13977
H M Prison Low Moss
Crosshill Road
Glasgow G64 2QB

Angela Zelter, Number 50463
HMP Prison Edinburgh
33 Stenhouse Road
Edinburgh EH11 3LN

Let’s have a trial

Daniel Woodhouse & Sam Walton write: On 10 July, we had our pre-trial hearing at Blackpool magistrates court. We both pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal damage – charges laid after we entered BAE Warton on 29 January to locate warplanes bound for Saudi Arabia. A trial has been scheduled for four days from 23 October in Burnley.

Our barrister Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers was slightly more on the ball than the crown prosecution service, and constructed as solid a foundation for a trial as we could hope for. She built on the excellent preparatory work of our solicitor Mike Schwarz of Bindmans. We’re deeply grateful for their dedication.

It’s going to be a lot of work as we do not currently have legal aid, but we knew that when we embarked on this path. We are both pleased we will get our day in court and fairly chilled out about the whole thing. We are grateful for the support, thoughts and prayers sent our way.

We’ll both be protesting outside the mega arms fair DSEI in September in East London, and Sam’s running something called Art the Arms Fair.

Let’s not have a trial

On 14 July, the high court in London overturned the acquittal of eight anti-militarists for disrupting the set-up of the DSEI arms fair in East London in September 2015.

However, the court also ruled that none of the activists should be re-tried or face costs – partly because all defendants were previously of good character.

The eight had been acquitted in April last year by Thames magistrates court of obstructing the highway on an access road to the ExCeL Centre, home of DSEI.

The eight had argued that they were trying to prevent crimes such as the promotion of torture by stopping equipment from arriving at DSEI, where they claimed illegal arms trading was taking place.

District judge Angus Hamilton ruled that there had been ‘clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015.’ (PN 2594–2595)

After judge Hamilton rejected its attempts to appeal, the crown prosecution service applied directly to the high court for a judicial review.

Lord justice Simon and sir Kenneth Parker ruled that the defence of preventing a crime at DSEI was not relevant because there was no evidence that the commission of a crime was ‘imminent and immediate’ at the time the eight chained themselves up outside the ExCeL centre.

The eight activists are: Isa Al-Aali (Bahrain), Bram Vranken (Belgium), Javier Garate Neidhart (Chile), Luis Tinoco Torrejon (Peru), and Lisa Butler, Angela Ditchfield, Thomas Franklin and Susannah Mengesha (UK).

Nepal votes

Every issue, PN checks in on the Nepali peace process, which has been staggering on since the end of the 10-year civil war (1996–2006). One major turning point was the passing of a new constitution in 2015 that redrew provincial boundaries largely on the basis of ethnicity, and delegated powers to lower levels of government.

Those lower levels have for years been appointed from the centre as no elections have been held for 20 years. Finally, this year, local elections are being held for chairs/mayors and members of local councils, known as ‘wards’. Half of all ward members must be women, by law.

Three provinces voted in May, three in June, and the final province vote has been delayed to 18 September as the government seeks to persuade parties in the low-lying Madhes that they should take part.

The military was deployed on 28 June because of a risk of disruption. There have been a handful of bombings during the election period; no one has been killed to date.

So far, the big winner has been the misnamed, politically-centrist, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), known as the UML. Neither the UML nor the nearly-as-centrist Maoist-Centre party carried out land reform during their periods in government.

So far in the local elections, the UML has 261 chairs and deputy chairs, the Nepali Congress has 188, and the Maoist-Centre has 95. There’s a similar party breakdown for ward members (councillors).

Western Sahara

On 13 July, the occupied people of Western Sahara won a major victory when the Moroccan state company OCP dropped its claim to 55,000 tonnes of phosphate rock mined in the territory.

The rock was on board the NM Cherry Blossom, which was detained in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on 1 May, on its way to New Zealand. The Sahrawi liberation movement Polisario argued the phosphate had been illegally removed as the operation did not have the consent of the people of Western Sahara.

The South African high court ruled on 15 June that the ownership of the cargo would have to be determined in a trial. The Moroccan government decided not to contest the case, and gave up its rights to the US$5m-worth of minerals.

Last issue, we reported that Panama had detained another phosphate ship on its way from Western Sahara to Canada. The Ultra Innovation was released on 21 May, and on 8 June the Panamanian courts refused to continue with Polisario's court case.

Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.