All charges against 19 anti-drone protestors have been dropped, after the Crown Prosecution Service admitted there was no realistic prospect of conviction.
The 19 were arrested for protesting at UAV Engines Ltd, in Shenstone, Staffordshire, on 6 July 2015, one year after Israel's attacks on Gaza in 2014.
UAV Engines Ltd is wholly owned by Elbit Systems, an Israeli company manufacturing military drones used to attack Gaza.
Speaking after the charges against her were dropped, Hilary Smith, said:
“The Crown Prosecution Service has finally conceded they have no case. Taxpayers' money has been wasted on a police operation and prosecution, all based on a bogus injunction.
“We protested peacefully at a factory owned by this Israeli company involved in drone wars against Palestinians. It is Elbit who should be in the dock.”
Ryvka Barnard, Senior Militarism and Security Campaigner at War on Want, said:
“It would have been a scandal for people to have been made criminals for protesting the manufacture of weapons used in war crimes. This is a victory for the right to protest.
“As long as the UK continues its deadly arms trade with Israel, it remains complicit in crimes against the Palestinian people and the brutality of Israeli Apartheid. We will continue to fight for the rights of Palestinians.”
On 1 July, UAV Engines obtained an injunction to prevent any demonstration within 250 metres of the site entrance. On 27 October, the Birmingham High Court removed the injunction “ab initio”, with the Judge declaring that it “had never existed”, as the company had failed to disclose the history of peaceful protest at the site.
Notes to editors
For more information and to arrange interviews contact Ross Hemingway 07983 550 728
According to the United Nations, the war on Gaza in 2014 resulted in 2220 Palestinian deaths, including 551 children. http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/annual_humanitarian_overview_2014_english_final.pdf
The Hermes 450 drone is known as the “workhorse” of the Israeli Defense Forces. It is powered by a UEL 80-AR-1010 engine, a model manufactured by UEL, based at Shenstone, near Lichfield. UEL is wholly owned by Elbit Systems. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jan/09/armstrade-gaza
At the height of the Gaza war in 2014, 9 protestors occupied the roof of the Shenstone factory. The prosecution collapsed in February when the company refused to provide details of military export licences and investigations into its trade with Israel. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/outcry-as-cps-drops-trial-of-anti-drone-protesters-at-last-minute-10014839.html
The 19 people arrested at the Block the Factory protest at UAV Engines drone engine factory at Shenstone on July 6th will be appearing at the Crown court at Stafford on Friday, 11th December. The Combined Court Centre, Victoria Square, Stafford ST16 2QQ.
Supporters are welcome to come to the court for a solidarity demonstration outside the court and to attend the hearing itself.The 19 are all charged with breaching an injunction which imposed a 250 metre 'forbidden zone' around the factory in an attempt by Israeli company Elbit systems (which owns the factory) to suppress protest. Elbit Systems is the largest privately owned Israeli arms manufacturer and is one of the largest exporter of drones in the world. Two of the 19 are additionally charged with common assault.
On October 27th, at Birmingham High Court one of the people named in the injunction successfully challenged the injunction and the Judge ruled that not only was the injunction 'set aside', but it was 'as if it had never existed'.
In spite of this ruling, in which the failure of the factory's legal team to disclose the full background of peaceful protest at the factory was severely criticised by Judge Purle, the Crown Prosecution Service have not dropped the case against the 19. At the hearing on the 27th November the legal team for the 19 will be arguing that the case should be dropped.
This is to let everyone know the latest information we have about the legal action around 'Block the Factory'. People will now be aware that an injunction in the High Court was used to try to prevent protest at UAV Engines taking place. That injunction is still in force and a hearing will be taking place in the High Court in Birmingham on Wednesday 22nd July regarding whether the injunction should remain in place. People will be attending the High Court on that day to challenge the injunction.
The 19 people who were arrested at Shenstone on 6th July are all on police bail. They are currently bailed to Friday 31st July, when, unless charges are dropped beforehand, they all have to attend at Tamworth Police station to answer their bail. Each of the 19 have a separate 'appointment' from 9a.m. onwards at the Police station. They will then presumably hear whether they are to be charged and what the charges are. The other option is that the police bail will be extended if the police investigation has not finished.
Tel: Alex Levan on 07506 766038 or Leila Hamdan on 07506 766365 (both in Shenstone)
Email: [email protected]
UPDATE-Protesters today (Monday 6 July) shut down four factories owned by Israel’s biggest arms company Elbit Systems to mark the one year anniversary of the 2014 attack on Gaza.
An injunction was issued in an attempt to prevent one of three UK protests, at UAV Engines Ltd (UEL), a drone engine factory near Shenstone, Staffordshire. Despite this campaigners from London Palestine Action, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign locked-on in the early hours of this morning, and are blocking the road and entrance to the factory.
Since 9am police have been attempting to clear the protest using force, physically removing young and elderly protesters alike. Specialist police protest removal teams are attempting to remove protesters who are locked together. At least tenthree arrests have been reported so far.
Hundreds of Palestine solidarity campaigners from around the country are arriving at the site to support fellow Palestine solidarity activists.
Production has also been halted at Elbit’s Elite KL factory in Tamworth, Staffordshire and at an Elbit factory called Instro Precision in Broadstairs, Kent, with activists on the roof of both factories. A similar occupation has been ongoing in Melbourne, Australia, since late last night.
The activists accuse the company of complicity in Israel’s alleged war crimes in Gaza .
The Shenstone and Broadstairs factories have been targeted by protesters before. At the height of Israel’s 51-day assault last year, nine protesters staged a sit-in on the roof of UEL for two days in August, costing the company over £100,000 .
Charges against the 9 people arrested were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service in January, just hours before a deadline to provide the defendants with details of arms export licences granted to UEL to send its hi-tech engines to Israel for use in the Hermes 450 – a drone widely deployed by the Israeli military.
Elly Hassan, from London Palestine Action, one of the groups co-ordinating today’s ‘Block the Factory’ actions, said:
‘UK government data shows that drone engines manufactured here are exported to Israel. These Israeli-owned factories are very much a part of Israel’s brutal regime of apartheid and settler-colonialism over the Palestinian people.’
‘Israel was only able to massacre 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza last summer because factories like these are allowed to operate and because governments such as the UK government continue to allow arms exports to Israel.’
‘People have come here from all over the country to show their solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and to demand that the UK government imposes a two-way military embargo on Israel.’
‘Today in Shenstone we are transforming the space around the UEL arms factory, converting it from a site of destruction into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment. We’re creating a space that meets our needs and not the needs of Israeli and multinational corporations that export death for profit.’
‘We urge people that share our opposition to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people to join the growing movement for a boycott of Israel.’
According to the UN, during its attack on Gaza last summer, Israel killed over 2,200 Palestinians including more than 500 children. Approximately 11,000 people were injured, including 1,000 children left with permanent disabilities. An estimated 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, making 100,000 people homeless .
During the 2014 bombing, arms sales to Israel became a topic of intense political scrutiny in the UK. Tory minister Baroness Warsi quit her post in the cabinet, calling the UK government’s stance ‘morally indefensible’.
A report released last Thursday by Campaign Against Arms Trade, War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign found that fresh arms exports to Israel worth nearly £4m - including components for drones - were approved by Britain within weeks of the attack. These deals show that despite Israel’s alleged war crimes, the government’s attitude to the arms trade with Israel is ‘business as usual’, they said.
The action also marks ten years since the launch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that pressures Israel to comply with international law. The movement is backed by major UK trade unions, the Green Party and the National Union of Students. Recent successes include the announcement by Orange that it intends to leave the Israeli market and the news that foreign direct investment into Israel has dropped by almost 50% last year, partly due to the growth of the boycott movement.
Last summer’s assault on Gaza, which killed over 2,200 Palestinians, was one of the most brutal effects of Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonisation of historic Palestine. The massacre was carried out using drones manufactured by Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. In response, activists occupied Elbit’s factory in Shenstone, causing its operations to grind to a halt and costing Elbit over £100,000.
On 6th July, to mark the first anniversary of the assault on Gaza, groups and campaigners from across the UK are going back to Elbit’s factory to demand that the UK stops arming Israel. Join us for a day of creative action in solidarity with Palestine!
Supporting organisations have endorsed the call and will be there taking collective action to block the factory from making these weapons.
We will be transforming the space around the arms factory, converting it from a site of destruction into a fun, creative and child-friendly environment. Let’s create a space that meets our needs and not the needs of Israeli and multinational corporations that export death for profit.
Whether you have never been on a protest before or are a seasoned activist, whether you are disabled, an older person, a younger person, whether you have five children or none, we need you to come and make this the biggest, most beautiful action yet at an arms factory in the UK!
Please email us at [email protected]