Freedom News

Drone factory shut down trial begins

In April last year, two activists locked-on to the gates of the Leicester drone company UAV Tactical Systems (UTACS), a subsidiary of Israel’s largest weapons firm Elbit Systems. The activists fixed their bodies to the lock-on, rendering access to the site impossible. The activists were arrested later that day, having shut the factory down entirely and prevented any manufacture of drone parts. An image from the action is included as an attachment.

Tomorrow, the activists are facing trial for charges of aggravated trespass and criminal damage, the latter charge coming after they threw blood-red paint on the site, to mark the factory premises with a symbolic representation of Palestinian blood spilled by Elbit. The two have plead not guilty to the charges of aggravated trespass and criminal damage, saying that Elbit are guilty – activists standing against their criminality are not. Alongside the two activists, a young Muslim woman was arrested on the day, simply for carrying a placard reading ‘Free Palestine’. She was later released without charge.

The UAV Tactical Systems site is used to produce the Watchkeeper drone for the British Military, a model deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the English Channel, and which was developed from Israel’s Hermes drones. The Hermes is notorious for its uses in the 2014 and 2021 assaults on Gaza, and has been linked to multiple war crimes by the Israeli military. The site is also used to produce parts for these Hermes drones themselves, and holds multiple export licenses for the sale of drone technologies to Israel. Elbit Systems – whose drones comprise 85% of Israel’s drone fleet – has been targeted for over two and a half years by sustained direct action intending to halt their British operations. From the 1st of May, Palestine Action have called a ‘siege‘ at the Leicester site: a mass mobilisation which will involve thousands staying put, through day and night, refusing to leave until Elbit does.

The two activists will appear on Tuesday 14th March in Leicester Magistrates Court (15 Pocklingtons Walk, LE1 6BT), and on Wednesday in Loughborough Magistrates Court (60 Pinfold Gate, LE11 1AZ). Support has been called to mobilise from 10AM on both days, and reporters are encouraged to attend and contact for any further information.

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