The "B52 Two" retrial blog

IssueJune 2007
Comment by Toby Olditch, Phil Pritchard

14 May - This is not a retrial

For the sake of the jury and due process, the event we're attending is not to be referred to as a retrial.
Things do seem oddly familiar though. Are you sure we haven't been here before? Is this a groundhog I see before me?
Things got under way with the prosecuting QC, Mr Blair, treating us to a brief summary of the case against Toby and Phil. He described what they did-- from agreeing (conspiring) to go to Fairford, to cutting the fence and entering the base carrying peace poppies, pictures of Iraqi casualties of the first Gulf War, video and text explanations of their action, a banner, soil and seeds (to transform the runway into a peaceful place), and nuts and bolts to put in the aircraft engines. Yup, the A word came out very quickly (3.33pm according to Ginny, who wins a gold star for paying very close attention). (A for Anarchy, by the way.)
Ed Rees, Defence Counsel, explained that while there's no disagreement over the facts of Toby and Phil conspiring and going to Fairford intending to disable B52 bombers, their defence rests on the reasonableness of their actions in the light of their, also undisputed, honestly held beliefs that war crimes were about to be committed.
He referred to the facts that Fairford is effectively an American base, that B52s stationed there were being prepared to drop bombs on Iraq, and that these were likely to include cluster weapons and weapons containing depleted uranium .

15 May - Dollars and donuts

We must mention the tremendous boost given by supporters coming to court yesterday from far and wide (and of course the stalwart Bristol peace campaigners). And especially Lizzie and Les from Southampton, who injected a bit of fun and creativity as they had us all folding origami cranes. The jury action started at about midday with the prosecution reading police statements and presenting an enormous number of things Phil and Toby took with them on the action.
Personally I'd have thought the guards would have spotted the pantechnicon they must have used to carry it all before T and P could drive it through the fence A Team style and do donuts on the runway. The first exhibits the jury saw were some photographs of casualties of the first Gulf War. As they studied and passed them around the mood seemed sombre.
Boredom replaced other emotions as the long list continued, though light relief was provided by the flashing deely boppers offered for consideration but alas not modelled by the prosecutors. Particularly important were the warning notices T and P took to put on any damaged planes, alerting the military personnel to the danger of attempting to operate them.
Next stop A Witness--Squadron Leader Ivor Morris, the head honcho, RAF-wise, for the Fairford base. It became abundantly clear through his evidence that the RAF had no real jurisdiction there and all decisions about operations were the business of the US Air Force. The bill for the fence repair, presented in evidence, was in US dollars..
. Mr Morris also described security arrangements at the base. Most interestingly that as soon as base personnel knew of any unauthorised entry all normal work would be halted, all gates closed, all buildings searched inside and out, and a sweep made of the entire site. This seems to indicate that Toby and Phil's action, while not achieving all their aims, must have had the effect of delaying the start of the bombing.

16 May - Toby's evidence

Toby gave evidence and did very well. So, from the top, Ed “The Crooner” Rees, QC for the defence, called Toby to the witness box. Toby was sworn in and Ed's questions started -- initially to give a thumbnail sketch of the beliefs that lead him to take this action and what he intended to do.
He went through his understanding of the political and military lead-up to the invasion, including the situation post the first Gulf war since when the bombing of Iraq has never completely stopped...
Then we had a brief tour of some of the exhibits as Toby explained what he'd do if they had got to the planes, namely putting nuts and bolts in the engines' air intakes and affixing warning signs: “Danger - Bomber Grounded”. Phil and Toby planned to do this to as many planes as possible before they were stopped or ran out of warning signs--their primary concern, whilst trying to stop the loss of innocent life in Iraq, was to ensure nobody was endangered as a result of damaging the planes.
They also planned to seal the bomb doors with pictures of Iraqi civilians; splash red and black paint, symbolising blood and oil, over the planes (which would also alert the USAF personnel to possible damage); drape a big colourful banner proclaiming “Swords into Ploughshares - Hope and Resistance” over the plane, and above all stay there until they were taken away.

18 May - Apologies to Mr Blair

So, Friday... was closing speeches day, prosecution then defence. Neither of us bloggers managed to hear the prosecution one, so this is a second-hand report. Apologies to Mr Blair if I don't do justice to his speech, which by all accounts was very good, though of course Wrong and therefore not entirely a Good Thing (cf Sellar and Yeatman 1066 & All That? - keep up, everyone!) Mr Blair began by acknowledging the importance of direct action in righting wrongs in our society, using examples such as the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage. His main argument was over the reasonableness or otherwise of Phil and Toby's actions--their defence rests on their actions being reasonable and proportionate in relation to the crime they were trying to prevent, in the circumstances as they believed them to be at the time. Of course, we all know that T and P were entirely right about what was going to happen, but that is knowledge after the fact and therefore cannot affect the jury's deliberations--and there's precious little comfort for the Iraqis in saying ``!I told you so.'' Mr Blair asserted that Phil and Toby's planned actions were not reasonable and proportionate, and that therefore their defence does not stand and the jury should find them guilty. We know better.