Arms fair protesters including former chair of Camden Greens will not face retrial

Tom Franklin, former chair of the Camden Green Party, pictured with Sian Berry and other supporters

Tom Franklin, former chair of the Camden Green Party, pictured with Sian Berry and other supporters outside court - Credit: Archant

Eight protesters cleared of any wrongdoing for their part in an arms fair protest will not face a retrial after a judge refused an appeal lodged by the Crown.

The eight men and women, who include former chair of the Camden Green Party, Tom Franklin, were cleared of obstructing the public highway following a week-long trial at Stratford Magistrates’ Court in April.

District Judge Angus Hamilton accepted their defence that they were trying to prevent greater crimes from taking place at the DSEI arms fair last October after they laid in the road or locked onto vehicles to block the passage of tanks and weapons.

This week, the same judge was critical of the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to appeal his verdict.

Mr Hamilton said: “The CPS application repeatedly significantly misrepresents the content of the judgement delivered at the end of the case, and therefore seeks to challenge the decisions reached on wholly erroneous bases.

“The CPS application also muddles factual decisions with decisions of law and it is not open to the CPS to seek to appeal findings of fact.”

Former Camden Council leader Raj Chada is one of the lawyers representing Mr Franklin and Bahraini refugee, Isa al-Aali, who lives in Somers Town.

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Mr Chada, a partner in the protest unit at Camden firm Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “From shambles to farce, the CPS has received a slap in the face in its efforts to appeal this decision.

“It should abandon this application and concentrate on the real wrong-doing at DSEI - weapons that are used to commit heinous crimes throughout the world.”

Giving his verdict after the trial, the judge said the court had heard “clear, compelling and largely unchallenged evidence” that illegal arms deals had taken place at every DSEI fair since the event began in 2009.

Expert witnesses gave evidence that illegal weapons of mass destruction and weapons designed for torture had been sold at previous DSEI fairs.

In a joint public statement, the defendants today said: “Win or lose, we have throughout remained wholeheartedly at peace with our actions to try and shut down the fair.

“We choose to remain on the side of history that rejects the facilitation of torture and mass indiscriminate killing for corporate profit.

“As ever, our only regret is that we didn’t stop the arms fair. As fresh evidence continues to emerge of the suffering caused by arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other brutal regimes the UK government’s position grows increasingly untenable.”

The DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) fair takes place every two years, and is jointly organised by Clarion Events and the UK Government.

Delegates from some of the world most oppressive regimes attend the biennial fair, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, Pakistan, Bahrain and Turkey.

Exhibitors include most of the world’s largest arms companies, displaying weapons ranging from rifles to tanks, fighter jets, battleships, missiles, military electronics, surveillance and riot control equipment.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “The case should never have gone to court in the first place.

“The arms trade is an illegitimate and immoral trade, and governments like the UK, and events like DSEI, are at the heart of it.

“That is why we need to mobilise the biggest possible opposition when it returns to London next year. DSEI fuels war and human rights abuses. It can’t be tweaked or altered - it needs to be shut down for good.”