Two more Brighton activists cleared of factory damage

By Jessica Elgot, July 2, 2010
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Pro-palestinian protesters in Brighton

Pro-palestinian protesters in Brighton

Two more pro-Palestinian activists who broke into an arms factory in Brighton and caused £180,000 worth of damage have been acquitted after they argued they were trying to prevent war crimes in Gaza.

Elijah Smith, 43, of no known address and Christopher Osmond, 30, of Islington Park Road, Islington were cleared of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

The defendants' solicitor, Lydia Dagostino, said: "We are delighted at the result.

"It sends a clear indication that sometimes direct action is the only option when all other avenues have failed."

The other activists, Robert Nicholls, 52, Tom Woodhead, 25, Harvey Tadman, 44, Ornella Saibene, 50, all from Bristol, and Simon Levin, 35, from Brighton, were aquitted yesterday. They argued that they were legally justified breaking into the factory, owned by EDO MBM.

Judge George Bathurst-Norman told the Hove Crown Court jury in his summing up: “"You may well think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered in that time".

But the Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor sharply criticised the judge's comments. He responded: "After reading the judge's statement, there is no doubt that this is not a great era of the British justice system. I assume that Sderot's children, who have lived under thousands of missiles, for years, will be able to enlighten the judge as to the meaning of 'hell on earth.'

He added:"I am convinced that His Honour would have ruled differently had he been sitting in the Sderot youth cultural centre, rather than on Brighton's sunny shores."

The seven defendants admitted they had broken in and sabotaged the factory on the outskirts of Brighton, but argued they were legally justified in doing so.

They said they believed that EDO MBM was breaking export regulations by manufacturing and selling to the Israelis military equipment which would be used by the Israeli army against in the territories.

They added that they wanted to slow down the manufacture of these components, and impede what they believed were war crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinians.

Paul Hills, EDO MBM’s managing director, denied in court that the company supplied arms components to Israel but said they did make parts for F16 planes. The company is owned by US defence contractor ITT.

Sussex Police have convicted 20 people for targeted action against the firm over the past two years.

Last updated: 3:34pm, July 2 2010