The direct action group Palestine Action (PA) has won its first acquittals. On 30 August, a judge at Walsall magistrates court found Iola Davies, 73, and Jasmine Murphy, 23, not guilty of highway obstruction despite the fact that they had locked-on to vehicles blocking entrances to the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone.
PA has a long-running campaign of disruption against British weapons factories owned by the Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems. UAV Engines, which is owned by Elbit Systems UK, produces engines for military drones.
Iola and Jasmine were acquitted because their action was proportionate in comparison to the crimes against humanity which they were acting to stop, based on the principles laid down in the Ziegler case (see PN 2660).
Palestine Action has been supporting six prisoners and many defendants in several trials, keeping up its protest (‘siege’) outside the Leicester factory of UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS), co-owned by Elbit Systems UK, and carrying out some actions.
PA also filed Freedom of Information requests which show that the Israeli embassy has been lobbying the UK attorney general’s office over prosecutions in the UK – presumably about PA itself.
On 1 September, PA activists entered the Manchester offices of iO Associates, carrying banners, demanding that the company stop recruiting for Elbit Systems UK. An iO employee was filmed shoving members of the group and seizing a mobile phone from a 14-year-old. PA named him as iO director Ross Markall.
Within hours, iO Associates had removed most Elbit job offers from their website.
On 6 September, four PA activists took the stage to make speeches at the International Composites Summit in Milton Keynes, where arms firms were discussing ‘cost-effective’ weapons components.
Other actions have been taken by Palestine Action Underground (PAU), launched on 2 August, which takes action secretly and anonymously, without waiting on-site for possible arrest.
On 22 August, a PAU affinity group, the ‘Doncaster Dismantlers’, sprayed red paint and damaged property at the Doncaster offices of an arms company, Thales, and property managers Fisher German. Thales co-own UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS) with Elbit. Fisher German provides property management services for the U-TacS site.
On 28 August, Digital Offices Group in Leicester, which is said to provide office supplies to U-TacS, had windows and airconditioning units broken, and red paint sprayed on its wall by PAU activists.
On 8 September, another ‘underground’ affinity group, calling itself ‘Lynx Lair’, poured paint-stripper and red paint over a car which it said belonged to the chief system architect for Elbit Systems, Nimrod Shoshany, parked outside his home.
On 6 September, four PA activists were given non-custodial sentences after being convicted by a jury of ‘possession of items with intent to commit criminal damage’.
The four were sentenced to suspended sentences of nine or 12 months, 20 ‘rehabilitation days’ and 80 or 150 days of unpaid work.
On 10 October, at Snaresbrook crown court, the Elbit Eight will stand trial on charges of burglary, criminal damage and blackmail, the last which carries a maximum of 14 years. The trial is set down to last five weeks.