Prestwick inspectors acquitted as Crown falters on permission issue

IssueDecember 2006 - January 2007
News by Adam Conway

Five of the 17 Prestwick weapons inspectors were acquitted on 1 December after the Crown failed to prove that they did not have permission from the US Air Force to be on their plane!

The five had entered Prestwick Airport on 7 August this year looking for evidence of bomb shipments from the US to Israel. Prestwick is an apparently civilian airport near Glasgow, but it also has military traffic. At the height of the bombing of Lebanon it became clear that the UK authorities would not investigate reports that planes carrying bombs, including 5000lb "bunker busters" (containing depleted uranium), were stopping to refuel at Prestwick en route from the US to Israel.

Three groups of war crimes detectives carried out "citizens' inspections" at Prestwick on three consecutive nights. Two of the groups got on board US military aircraft (well, what do you expect if you don't lock your doors?).

No case to answer

The first two groups have had their charges dropped in order to be re-started with new charges, leaving the third group as the first to come to trial. They faced three charges: being in a restricted zone at an airport without permission, being on an aircraft without permission, and vandalism.

At the end of the prosecution case, the Crown dropped the first and third charges (they had no evidence of vandalism and it wasn't a restricted zone) leaving only the charge of being on an aircraft. The defence put forward a motion that there was "no case to answer" as the Crown hadn't produced any evidence that the "detectives" didn't have permission from the operator of the aircraft (the US military), an argument that the Sheriff accepted.

Contracts and kidnaps

Reacting after the verdict, A-L Rundberg, one of the defendants, said, "While I'm happy that we were acquitted, I wish that the courts would focus as much on the actual breaches of international law that Prestwick facilitates as on the legal technicalities and Crown cock-ups."

Prestwick is likely to continue to be a focus for protest as it is reported to be bidding for the contracts that used to go to Shannon Airport in Ireland. The Scottish airport has also been implicated in US "extraordinary rendition" flights, in which the CIA have kidnapped terror suspects and taken them to secret detention facilities around the world for possible torture.

The other two groups of inspectors are expected to face trial on new charges in the spring.

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