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State accused of wasting money after appealing acquittal of eight defendants in DSEI arms protest

PUBLISHED: 19:08 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 19:24 03 May 2016

Tom Franklin with supporters, including Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry, outside court

Tom Franklin with supporters, including Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry, outside court

Archant

Eight campaigners cleared of any wrongdoing for their part in an arms fair protest may be dragged back to court after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lodged an appeal.

Tom Franklin with supporters and co-defendants outside court on the trial's opening dayTom Franklin with supporters and co-defendants outside court on the trial's opening day

The eight protestors - who include former chair of Camden Green Party, Tom Franklin, and a Camden based Bahraini refugee, Isa al-Aali, were acquitted of obstructing the highway in a landmark ruling last month.

Judge Angus Hamilton accepted their defence that they were trying to prevent serious crime taking place by halting the passage of tanks and other vehicles carrying weapons into the Excel Centre in Docklands.

Mr Franklin and Mr al-Aali are being represented by Camden legal firm, Hodge Jones and Allen.

Their solicitor, Raj Chada, a former leader of Camden Council, said: “I find it beyond belief that the CPS continues to act against our clients when the real investigation should take place into the activities of the DSEI conference.

“There is also the question of the cost to the public purse as well as proportionality in pursuing this case.”

In a joint public statement, the eight defendants said: “We absolutely stand by our actions at the DSEI arms fair in seeking to prevent corporate and state support for torture and the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians.

“Our actions have continued to show where the interests of money and power truly lie. The state has invested a prolific amount of time and public money seeking to prosecute us.

“Many of us feel that perhaps if the state had chosen to focus their resources on those selling killing machines and torture weapons to human rights abusers then we would see some of the arms dealers in court, instead of those who are trying to prevent some of the vilest crimes including torture and war crimes.”

During the week long trial at Stratford Magistrates’ Court, the judge said the court had heard “clear, compelling and largely unchallenged” evidence that illegal arms dealing had taken place at every single previous DSEI fair, including the sale of torture equipment and banned weapons of mass destruction.

The court heard that major clients at DSEI include countries immediately complicit in war crimes, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey and Israel.

The DSEI fair takes place every two years and is jointly organised by Clarion Events and the UK Government.

In September 2015, more than 1500 exhibitors and 30,000 delegates attended from around the world, including most of the world’s largest arms companies, displaying arms ranging from rifles to tanks, fighter jets, battleships, missiles, military electronics, surveillance and riot control equipment.

The decision by the state to appeal the acquittal comes just after the government ignored calls from the Commons’ International Development Committee, The European Parliament and leading NGOs to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

If the CPS is successful in its application, the case will be heard in the High Court.

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