A group of activists who chained themselves inside the London branch of Israeli cosmetics shop Ahava have been acquitted after the prosecution’s key witness did not show up to court.
Bruce Levy, 46, from Greenwich, Jo Crouch, 29, from Haringey, Tom Ellis, 30, and Taherali Gulamhussein, 24, both from Hackney, were charged with aggravated trespass and failing to comply with a police officer’s orders to leave the shop after they locked themselves to concrete-filled oil drums inside the Monmouth Street store on two separate occasions last year.
On Monday, the aggravated trespass charge was dropped and the second charge dismissed during a hearing in Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that its key witness, store manager Rita Trindade, did not attend court despite a court summons and efforts by the police to contact her and so it was unable to offer evidence against the defendants.
But owner, Odelia Haroush, speaking from Israel, said: “Nobody told me. We didn’t get any letter or telephone call to tell us about the case. I wasn’t aware of the trial. I’m not even in London and have been away for a month.”
The CPS dropped the charge of aggravated trespass on Monday, which would have required the prosecution to demonstrate Ahava was being prevented from engaging in lawful activity.
Activists have held fortnightly demonstrations outside the Covent Garden store throughout the year, claiming that it acts unlawfully by mislabelling its products “Made in Israel” when they are made in Mitzpe Shalem, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank.
In June, seven anti-Israel activists were acquitted of damaging an arms factory after the judge told the jury at Lewes Crown Court that the group’s leader should be awarded the George Cross for his campaign.
Jonathan Sacerdoti, a spokesman for the Zionist Federation, said: “Those who seek to intimidate shops selling Israeli products should be ashamed of themselves.”
Another protest will take place on Saturday outside the store.