England

Activists cleared over Brighton weapons factory raid

EDO MBM Technology
Image caption The activists admitted breaking in to EDO MBM and damaging equipment

Seven anti-war activists have been cleared of plotting to damage a Brighton weapons factory after claiming to be preventing Israeli war crimes.

During their three-week trial at Hove Crown Court the activists said they were acting with "lawful excuse" during the break-in at EDO MBM in 2009.

Five Smash EDO activists were cleared on Wednesday, with the remaining two acquitted on Friday.

The defendants were from Brighton, Bristol and Islington, north London.

Extensive damage was caused to the EDO MBM Technology building in Moulsecoomb along with computer equipment and precision machinery.

EDO MBM is an approved supplier to the Ministry of Defence and governments worldwide.

The activists admitted they broke into EDO MBM in the early hours of 17 January last year and sabotaged equipment worth about £200,000.

But they said they were acting to prevent further alleged war crimes being committed by Israel against Gaza.

Simon Levin, 35, of Montpelier Place, Brighton; Tom Woodhead, 35, of London Road, Bristol; Ornella Saibene, 50, of Brigstock Road, Bristol; Bob Nicholls, 53, of St Nicholas Broad, Bristol and Harvey Tadman, 44, of Croydon Street, Bristol were all found not guilty of conspiracy to commit criminal damage on Wednesday.

Elijah Smith, 43, of no known address and Christopher Osmond, 30, of Islington Park Road, Islington were cleared on Friday.

The defendants' solicitor, Lydia Dagostino, said: "We are delighted at the result.

"It sends a clear indication that sometimes direct action is the only option when all other avenues have failed."

Mr Osmond said: "It was the right verdict. During one operation 1,400 people had been killed, 350 children had died, and nobody was willing to take action.

Major demonstrations

"Our politicians and the United Nations were not taking action to support the people of Gaza and it was necessary for ordinary people to take action like we did."

He added that there would no let-up in the six-year campaign against the company.

Sussex Police said that, while they respected the decision of the court, 20 people had been convicted following four major demonstrations or targeted action aimed at the firm over the past two years.

"Sussex Police want to facilitate peaceful protests to ensure the safety of both participants and members of the community and to minimise disruption to the city," said Chief Supt Graham Bartlett.

"When these are not peaceful, we need to fulfil our duty to take action and where necessary investigate and present evidence before the court."

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