Activists were preventing war crimes by blockading world’s biggest arms fair – judge

Eight activists standing trial for disrupting the world’s biggest arms fair, held in London last September, have been found not guilty. The court ruled they were acting to prevent a greater crime, according to an anti-arms trade group.

In his ruling, the judge said there was clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence of wrongdoing at Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI), according to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

He said there is “compelling evidence” that arms sold at DSEI are used for repression and human rights abuses.

Ham & High reporter Rachel Roberts said the judge dismissed the argument, put forward by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), that a not guilty verdict will “open floodgates” to anarchy in the UK.

Instead he accepted that all eight defendants acted reasonably and proportionally to try and prevent the sale of illegal arms and war crimes, Roberts tweeted.

The ruling is a victory for anti-arms trade activists, who sought to highlight the UK’s complicity in war crimes committed by repressive regimes around the world.

The eight activists issued a statement through CAAT in which they called on the public to join the campaign to shut down DSEI.

“Over the week, we have put DSEI and the arms trade on trial and we have proven them to be illegitimate. Our only regret is that we didn’t succeed in shutting down DSEI,” they said.

“Our thoughts are with the people who suffer as a result of the arms trade and the survivors of repressive regimes, torture, war and conflict. We call on more people to join us in our efforts to shut down DSEI 2017 and take collective action to end the arms trade.”

The campaigners were arrested after blocking the road leading to the arms fair last September, preventing tanks and weaponry from entering.

The activists used the defense of necessity, insisting their actions were justified because they intended to prevent greater crimes taking place around the world.

CAAT said the trial highlighted UK complicity in war crimes in Yemen, where the British military is offering support to the Saud-led coalition waging war against Houthi rebels.

It also raised awareness about British complicity in human rights abuses in Bahrain and the slaughter of Kurdish civilians by Turkey, according to the group.

2015’s DSEI event featured stalls from more than 1,500 exhibitors, including arms giants Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Finmeccanica and others.

Customers included representatives from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Egypt.