Freedom News

Judge acquits activists who shut Elbit down

On Wednesday 30th August, District Judge Grego found two activists not guilty of ‘obstruction of the highway’. The two activists, Jasmine and Iola, had locked themselves into vehicles, each blocking the two entrances of UAV Engines Ltd. Their action took place during an ongoing camp at the site and led to the factory being forced to close down for the day on 9th September 2022. Whilst locked in, one activist threw paint at the gates, which resembled the colours of the Palestinian flag.

Three months after the action, the two were given notices of ‘no further action‘, meaning no criminal charges would be brought against them. However, the company ‘reviewed’ this decision, which led to the Crown Prosecution Service reversing its decision and subsequently charging the two. Their trial at Walsall Magistrates Court lasted two days, starting on the 29th August. Both defendants gave evidence of crimes committed against the Palestinian people by the targeted arms factory.

The Judge’s ruling was based on the principle of proportionality established in the Supreme Court case of DPP v Ziegler. The two were acquitted as the Judge found their action was proportionate compared to the crimes against humanity they were acting to stop.

Palestine Action blocks both gates and prevents workers from getting in to work at UAV Engines, Shenstone, Staffs. The business, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, produces drones for use by the Israeli defence force in Gaza and elsewhere. Protesters are demanding that the factory close.

UAV Engines Ltd in Shenstone is owned by Elbit Systems — Israel’s largest weapons manufacturer. It specialises in making engines for combat drones, which Elbit openly markets as ‘battle-tested’ on the Palestinian population. The Hermes 450 aircraft has been used to surveil and attack the people of Gaza for over a decade, decimating thousands of lives.

After sustained actions against the company, the senior management publicly attempted to deny they export weaponry for use by the Israeli military despite holding numerous export licenses to Israel. A decision notice served by the Information Commission Office (ICO) ordered the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) to disclose the relevant information or face potential contempt of court charges. In line with the order, the DBT disclosed the requested information, revealing UAV Engines repeatedly sent weaponry to Israel for specific use by the Israeli military. The ICO’s investigation also exposed the fact UAV Engines Ltd hold a Non Disclosure Agreement with the Israeli military and told the DBT which exemptions to use when initially refusing to release the information (Point 18).

The factory also manufactures parts for the Watchkeeper, used to surveil migrants seeking refuge in the UK, and the Shadow drone, which forms part of the US military arsenal, notably used in the American invasion of Iraq and likely to be used in ongoing attacks on Yemen.

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