19 May sees the opening of a long-delayed trial of nine anti-war protestors charged with criminal damage and affray at a Northern Ireland office of the arms manufacturers Raytheon.
It was on 9 August 2006, as the USA was rushing missiles to Israel to aid its assault on Lebanon, that nine members of the Derry Anti- War Coalition (DAWC) members occupied a Raytheon software development facility and “decommissioned” its computers. Ironically, the software facility had come to Derry/Londonderry in 1999 as part of the Northern Ireland “peace process”, sparking protests by anti-war campaigners. The Springtown plant is also involved in ASTOR, the bomb guidance system currently being used in Afghanistan.
The Raytheon 9 will be standing trial on Monday 19 May – not in Derry, but in Belfast.
The trial was moved after the prosecution argued that a Derry jury was likely to know too much, and be too sympathetic and/or intimidated by the level of support for the Raytheon 9 in the city. From November 2007 to February 2008, the court imposed a media gag forbidding any mention of the trial, or of protests in support of the Raytheon 9, or even the existence of the gag itself. The gag was only lifted when a long-time campaigner against Raytheon applied for a judicial review.
DAWC is confident that, wherever the trial is heard, there will be large demonstrations in support of the Raytheon Nine.
Noam Chomsky wrote this message of support to the Nine: “You’re an inspiration to all of us. It’s an honor to have even a remote association with what you are doing.”