We received the following press release just after publishing the report in Acorn 24.

CROWN APPEALS ARMS FAIR PROTESTERS ACQUITTAL TO HIGH COURT, CLAIMING
EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES “IRRELEVANT”

•       The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has lodged an appeal against
eight anti-arms trade activists who were acquitted of obstructing the
highway, in an attempt to stop DSEI, one of the world’s largest arms fairs.

•       The activists were acquitted after the Court accepted that they
were seeking to prevent greater crimes – namely, the promotion of torture
weapons and the sale of arms to countries immediately complicit in war
crimes such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain.

On Friday the CPS submitted an Application to Magistrates’ Court to State a
Case for an Appeal to the High Court under rule 35.2 of the Criminal
Procedure Rules. If the CPS is successful then the matter will be heard in
the High Court.

Prevention of crime’ was one of a number of defences run. During the trial,
high profile expert witnesses from Amnesty, Campaign Against the Arms Trade
(CAAT) and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) gave evidence
to the effect that illegal weapons and instruments of torture had been
promoted for sale at DSEI, and that the arms fair is used to sell weapons
knowing that they will be used for human rights abuses.

The DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) arms fair takes place
every two years in London’s Docklands, and is jointly organised by Clarion
Events and the UK Government. Buyers include countries involved in conflict
and from human rights abusing regimes. In September 2015 over 1500
exhibitors and 30,000 delegates attended from around the world, including
most of the world’s largest arms companies, displaying arms ranging from
rifles to tanks, fighter jets, battleships, missiles, military electronics,
surveillance and riot control equipment.

The eight anti-arms trade activists previously faced charges at Stratford
Magistrates’ Court arising from having disrupted the arms fair last
September by blocking the access roads to the site with their bodies, or by
locking themselves to the gates or vehicles. All eight defendants were
acquitted of Obstructing the Highway on 15 April 2016.

The decision by the state to appeal has controversially come at the same
time as the Government has ignored urgent calls from the House of Commons
International Development Committee and the European Parliament, as well as
leading NGOs, to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

In a joint public statement, the defendants’ campaign said:

“We absolutely stand by our actions at the DSEI arms fair in seeking to
prevent corporate and state support for torture and the mass indiscriminate
killing of civilians. Our actions have continued to show where the
interests of money and power truly lie. The state has invested a prolific
amount of time and public money seeking to prosecute us. Many of us feel
that perhaps if the state had chosen to focus their resources on those
selling killing machines and torture weapons to human rights abusers then
we would see some of the arms dealers in court, instead of those who are
trying to prevent some of the vilest crimes including torture and war
crimes.”

In delivering comments on his judgement DJ Hamilton said:

” the court has been presented with clear, credible and largely
unchallenged evidence from three experts that criminal wrongdoing had
occurred at  past DSEI exhibitions involving the sale of arms to countries
which  then used those arms against civilian populations and the sale of
items that were inherently unlawful such as cluster munitions and  items
designed for torture and inappropriate restraint. There was, as a result, a
compelling inference that such activities would also take place at the 2015
DSEI exhibition.

“The court was also presented with clear, credible and largely unchallenged
evidence that such criminal activities are not being properly investigated
and, where appropriate, prosecuted. Ample evidence of this was provided by
the three experts. One can also look at the response of the police officers
to whom these individual defendants complained about likely criminal
activity occurring at the 2015 DSEI fair. Such complaints were not,
apparently, taken seriously and no action was taken in relation to them.”

The defendants Isa Al-Aali (from Bahrain), Angela Ditchfield (from UK),
Lisa Butler (from UK), Thomas Franklin (from UK), Javier Garate Neidhart
(from Chile), Susannah Mengesha (from UK), Luis Tinoco Torrejon (from Peru)
and Bram Vranken (from Belgium) are represented by Kelly’s Solicitors of
Brighton, Hodge Jones & Allen of London and Bindman’s Solicitors of London.

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