On 16 March, Milan Rai, author, activist and founder of Justice Not Vengeance, went on trial for organising an unauthorised demonstration within the 1-km exclusion zone around parliament on 25 October 2005, contrary to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA). If found guilty, Rai faces a fine of up to #3,000 and/or three months imprisonment.
The “demonstration” in question consisted of Milan and one other person, Maya Evans, reading the names of those who have died in the Iraq war, while standing with two placards. Evans was convicted of participating in the demonstration at her trial on 7 December and given a #100 fine (see cover story, PN2470).
During Rai's trial, the court heard that while the demonstration was unlicensed, the police had been aware of the event. Milan informed the court that he did not want to undermine the campaign against the SOCPA legislation and felt that filling out the necessary forms would have been a violation of his human right to protest. The defence also argued that the police response to the protest was disproportionate and unnecessary, and that following several European human rights precedents, the case again Rai could be dismissed.
The court adjourned until 12 April when a verdict will be announced. Coincidentally, this is the same day as the book launch for Rai's 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War. On 12 April, an event in London, chaired by Maya Evans, is planned for 7pm at the Friends Meeting House, Euston Road. Entry is free.
&nbksp;Meanwhile further SOCPA trials continue, with Sunday picnicker Mark Barrett appearing at Bow Street Magistrates' court on 31 March for his alleged breach of SOCPA last August (see PN2470).