A big day today. We got some trial done, some judgements and I appeared on the stand. But you will have to skip towards the bottom if you want to read that first.
We started the day with some more rulings on proceedings. The prosecution had failed to provide the defence with copies of some of the evidence that they had requested, despite repeated requests. However, because they had not been back to court to demand it from the prosecution the judge ruled that the prosecution do not have to provide it unless they wish to. One to the prosecution then.
We then had the first witness of the day; really the first witness as yesterday they had only answered a couple of questions about the videos we were being shown. First up was Mr Salman a security guard / traffic manager working for the Excel Centre who had been on duty on the day that Lisa Butler and Susannah Mengesha were arrested. I am not quite sure why he had been selected as he added little light to the subject. His job was to direct traffic at the first of two gates at the Excel Centre and ensure that only traffic for the Excel Centre (identified by Excel or DSEI / G4S passes), a block of flats and a restaurant went down the road. He said that G4S had already closed and blocked the inner gates before Angela and Susannah fixed themselves to the fence with D-locks (so presumably the traffic was already blocked?).
At one point the judge got a bit snappy with both prosecution and defence lawyers and said to Mr Salman “Any irritation is purely with lawyers”, and told the prosecution that they had spent far more time than they had allocated for herself in the timetable. Still she went on for another five minutes to little effect.
Next up was PC Salem who believes in magic as he said, and I quote “after release from custody the key magically appeared and she released herself”. Digging a little deeper the police were unable to remove the D-lock from Susannah’s neck, and had strip-searched her at the police station hoping to find a key which she had already told them that she didn’t have. It also became clear that he had not seen her without the D-lock, so it would seem the magic was a surmise.
Next up was PC Bo or Beau I couldn’t read the name badge, but it was pronounced like them. He stated that Angela was attached to the fence with a D-lock around the fence and they had to get the MoD police to release her. He also stated that no vehicles could pass her on the road, but had to agree that photographs of the scene showed two large police vans going through the gate whilst Angela was locked to it.
After that we had a preliminary ruling from the judge that he was minded to allow us to present the defence we wish to. He said that having read the prosecution’s skeleton argument he could see nothing that clearly ruled out the defence, and as there was ambiguity he would have to come down on the side of the defence, and, to quote “unless she could pull a rabbit from a hat he would allow the defence to be presented”. The rulings themselves were quite entertaining as we had a high court judge saying that a law lord was wrong. Hoffman had said the defence could rarely be presented, but that was before the Human Rights Act, and the later case said he was wrong. The appeal court said it had reservations and would have to visit the issue later. The judge also said that the level of criminality in this case was less than in the Hoffman case so the defence was more likely to be allowed.
So, in the ambiguity he would rule for the defence. The prosecution then tried to use a case where the judge had said nothing on the topic, and was slapped down by the judge who ruled that we could give our defences. A big one for the defence.
The afternoon was taken with the examination of the first defendants.
First up was Angela Ditchfield, who has an interesting past working in mission hospitals, standing as a Green Party Party councillor. She is particularly concerned with the sales of arms to countries with bad human rights records that use them against civilians including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Pakistan and Israel.
The vehicle that she stopped, and chained herself too whilst not a tank is used to make killing more efficient. She stated that she is opposed to all arms sales, but was specifically trying to prevent illegal sales of arms.
She had tried all the usual channels of protest and writing letters etc and was particularly concerned that the government would do nothing as they had even voted for a Saudi Arabian to be chair of a panel of the Human Rights Council, despite their record.
The prosecutor was exercised with the imminence of any crime and kept pushing her about whether that particular vehicle at that particular moment seemed to be about to commit a crime. Which it may have been as it seemed to be about to run over one of the protestors.
I was next up. So I can tell you that it was a bit nerve racking at first, as I wanted to be clear and make sure I got my key arguments across. The others tell me I did. There is a good summary in the Guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/12/peace-activist-thomas-franklin-uphold-rule-law-dsei-arms-fair?CMP=share_btn_tw but here is my take from what I can remember – which because of the levels of adrenalin is not as much as I might have expected.
First I explained my long commitment to human rights and arms control, having been active in Amnesty International since I was 14 and a member of CAAT on and off since my twenties; that I left the Labour Party in part because of its war mongering and have been active in the Green Party for three years including standing for Council.
I then talked about going to the protest on the Thursday, organised by Academics Against Arms and hearing one seminar before rushing off to lie in front of the tank. The seminar then moved next to us (but that was mentioned in court).
I pointed out that I was only trying to intervene because the police, government and arms control agencies had done nothing to uphold the law preventing the sale of amongst other things cluster bombs, land mines and torture equipment, despite the illegal activity at each previous DSEI. “In every single previous arms fair, that had been found to be happening. We have evidence of that. We have parliamentary reports, we have reports from Amnesty International, we have reports from Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, listing illegal weapons being sold.”
Cross examination focused on what other activity I had taken (such as letter writing and demonstrating) that I felt I had a right to take action, and the immediacy of any crime that the tank might be involved in. I kept re-stating the point that if the government would only enforce the law then I would not have to intervene.
Last up for the day was Lisa Butler who writes about Kurdistan including for Corporate Watch and Turkish attacks on Kurds were her main focus. She had been in Kurdistan just a month before DSEI visiting Cizre, and where Kurds were being killed by Turkish forces even whilst DSEI was going on. There had also been a recent declaration that Turkey was in breach of human rights law, but despite this they had been invited to DSEI.
She had been going to the arms fair to protest and meet a Kurdish speaker, but saw a woman who was trying to lock herself to the gate being harassed and threatened by security guards, so she decided to lock herself to the gate in her place. Once she had locked herself to the gate a cyclist, who she did not know, took the key and headed off so that she could not unlock herself.
Since DSEI Cizre has been largely destroyed by Turkish shelling, killing hundreds and displacing thousands and thousands.
Tomorrow we start with the cross examination of Lisa.
Sorry, no pictures today.