Freedom News

Activists spared jail for attempt to shut down arms factory

On Wednesday 6th September, at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court, five activists from Palestine Action were scheduled to be sentenced after being convicted for ‘possession of items with intent to commit criminal damage’. Judge Michael Chambers stated he would sentence them as though they would have committed over £30K of criminal damage and rescheduled the sentencing for one of the activists.

Palestinian activists Ibrahim Smadi and Alex Waters were sentenced to 9 months suspended for two years, 20 rehabilitation days and 150 hours of unpaid work. Tony Greenstein was sentenced to 9 months suspended for two years, 20 rehabilitation days and 80 hours unpaid work. The fourth, Jeremy Parker, was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years, 20 rehabilitation days and 150 hours unpaid work. 

Initially, six activists were stopped in a van on the way to an Israeli weapons factory in Shenstone. On 15th May 2023, after a 7 week trial, four out of the six were convicted by a jury. This came after the Judge refused to allow any justification defences for the activists’ actions, including preventing the greater crime, Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people committed by Elbit’s weaponry. One other pleaded guilty, and the jury was hung on the sixth activist. The sixth will be retrialed in January 2024. 

There were continual delays before the sentencing, leaving the activists waiting over 3 months after conviction. The six were on their way to UAV Engines, a factory owned by Israel’s largest weapons firm, Elbit Systems. The factory 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. 

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. 

Commenting on the sentencing, Palestine Action says: 

“We are pleased to see the activists were not imprisoned. Although for taking action against Israel’s weapons trade, they should be applauded and heralded as heroes, not face conviction or sentencing.”

They had previously released a pre-sentence statement: 

On March 9 2021, we were arrested by the Police before we could reach Elbit’s Shenstone factory, where some of us intended to halt production. 

We were found guilty on May 15 2023, after a 7 week trial. Judge Michael Chambers refused to admit all lawful excuse defences under s.3 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 [CDA] or let us explain why it was that we had targeted Elbit and the background to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The jury was not told that they had the right to reach a verdict based on whether it was unjust to convict and whether or not the use of the CDA in this case was oppressive. It has long been established in case law since Bushell’s case in 1670 that a jury has the right to reach a verdict according to their conscience.

Patrick Devlin, a former Law Lord, said that the right to bring in ‘perverse acquittals’ gives protection against laws the ordinary man regards as harsh and oppressive.. insurance that the criminal law will conform to the ordinary man’s ideas of what is fair and just. The jury will not be a party to its enforcement if it does not.

Israel’s recent attack on Jenn used drones built by Elbit. 12 Palestinians, including 4 children, were killed. It is this kind of atrocity in occupied Palestine that motivated our actions.

The defence of necessity was ruled out, whereby committing a more minor crime is permissible to prevent a far greater crime. The courts have decided that the victims of Elbit’s drones are too ‘remote’ from Elbit’s UK factories.

The ‘logic’ of the Crown was that to use this defence, we had to identify the particular engine in the drone that killed a specific child. These are legal semantics designed to enable further Elbit war crimes. It enables Elbit to evade legislation preventing war crimes, such as when an Elbit drone extrajudicially assassinated three Palestinians in Jenn on June 21 2023.

Defences under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights (the right to protest) were also ruled out.

Section 52/53 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 makes the commission of war crimes by British nationals or residents or ancillary to war crimes in this country or abroad an offence. Actions intended to prevent the production of Elbit Drones must be lawful.

In the eyes of the law, criminal damage against Elbit factories is more severe than enabling war crimes.


HHJ Chambers has stated that our offences ‘cross the custody threshold. The date of sentencing was initially intended to be on June 26. It has been repeatedly postponed.

This continual delay in sentence is in itself a form of punishment. One of us has lost a job due to the conviction. This case has been hanging over us for more than two years.

In taking action against Elbit’s factories, we have been guilty of nothing more than trying to prevent Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people. If that is a crime, so be it.

We have therefore decided to issue this statement so that people who have been following the trials and prosecution, some would say persecution, of Palestine Action activists are made aware of what is happening in this case.

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