Hain refuses plea to testify against Israel

Cabinet member Peter Hain has refused to appear as an expert witness for five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign involved in a court case over an anti-Israeli protest during an Edinburgh Festival concert.

The name of the Secretary of State for Wales appeared on a list of people whom the SPSC group claimed in an email that it had approached to give expert evidence on behalf of the defendants.

The email to SPSC supporters said that it was “awaiting reply” from him. But when contacted by the JC this week, Mr Hain said: “This is the first I have heard of this — and the answer is that there would never have been any question of me appearing as a witness.”

The majority of the rest of the names on the list are all known Palestinians or Palestinian sympathisers, including aircraft hijacker Leila Khaled, Israeli academic Dr Moshe Machover, Tony Greenstein of the Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods campaign, and Israeli human rights activist Yael Khan. The SPSC says it is also awaiting a reply from BBC sound technicians who were recording the concert which was picketed by the SPSC.

On August 29 last year, the Jerusalem String Quartet performed at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. The show was part of the Festival’s “Artists Without Borders” programme, which featured artists from Iran as well as Israel. The SPSC claimed that the quartet contained members of the IDF.

The performance was allegedly disrupted by shouting protesters. Kevin Connor, 39, of Willowbrae Crescent, Neil Forbes, 54, of Wester Hailes Road, Vanessa Fuertes, 34, of Willowbrae Road, Mick Napier, 62, and Sofia Macleod, 38, both of Glendinning Crescent, all in Edinburgh, were arrested and charged initially with public order offences. But in March of this year at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the charges were changed to racially aggravated conduct. All four denied committing any offence.

They are due to appear in court again on October 1, when their lawyers will seek to have the case dismissed.

    Last updated: 9:17am, August 13 2009