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Hat-trick for Fairford activists

For the third time, a trial stemming from direct action at “RAF” Fairford, Gloucestershire, in 2003 - when activists tried to impede US bombing of Iraqis at the start of the attacks in March that year - has ended with a hung jury.

Josh Richards was charged with attempted arson, having being arrested while breaking into the base. He said he wanted to set fire to the tyres of planes so they could not be used to drop cluster bombs on Iraqi civilians, which would be a war crime. He also told the jury that he feared civilians would be subjected to terrorising carpet bombing. After seven days in Bristol Crown Court at the end of January, the jury failed to produce a verdict.

Retrials on the horizon

Last September the first of these Fairford trials came to court, following a long delay while there were arguments in higher courts as to the degree to which activists' beliefs about the illegal nature of the attacks on Iraq were relevant. Then, Margaret Jones and Paul Millings were tried - also in Bristol Crown Court - for breaking into a supply depot on the airbase in March 2003 and damaging more than 30 auxiliary vehicles so as to delay the bombing. The jury failed to reach a verdict.

And in October last year, Phil Pritchard and Toby Olditch walked free from the same court in similar circumstances, having been accused of attempting to disarm B52 bombers at the base in 2003.

Retrials are now expected in all three cases, with Paul and Margaret's scheduled to start on 22 March. Phil and Toby will probably be back in court in May, and Josh in June.