Thursday, October 05, 2006



Morning all. This is an updated and expanded version of yesterday evening's stuff, which still isn't finished. Hope that we'll get the blog up to date by lunchtime, so come back later if you're a completist, or read on if you're content with getting it a bit at a time.

Phew! what a scorcher - and I'm not talking about the weather. Things in court today have definitely been a lot less matey, getting decidedly hostile in fact. But before getting into the gory details, we want to put in Big Letters the whole big thing point from the legal defence point of view:

*The issue before the jury is whether in the circumstances as the defendants believed them to be, their actions were reasonable.*
The burden of proof rests with the prosecution ie. it's up to the prosecution to prove that their actions were not reasonable.
The standard of proof in the old-fashioned phrase is 'beyond reasonable doubt.'
So, as Ed Rees (defence barrister) said to the jury "It is for the crown to prove that the defendants' actions were not reasonable and to prove it so that you are sure with no room for doubt."
That being so, Mr Houlder has been having a go today.....

We started off this morning with Toby back on the stand- he's been under oath since yesterday and therefore not allowed to talk to anyone including his lawyers about anything to do with the trial - so we played Frisbee instead (but not in court.) Another of those interesting exercises in communication through the medium of movement?

What did happen in court was that Ed Rees, the defence barrister, continued his questioning of Toby, aiming to establish his state of mind in the time before the action.
Asked about their purposes in carrying out the action, T responded that the primary purpose was, as we all know, to disable a B52 bomber or bombers and prevent it/them from flying and dropping bombs on
. A supplementary aim was to demonstrate that individuals could take responsibility for preventing the crimes that were about to be committed, and hopefully to encourage others to take whatever action they thought appropriate in the same considered and peaceful manner.
Ed Rees then clarified to the jury that the question of whether the war as a whole was legal or not is not something they need to, or should, consider in this case and is not a defence T and P are using. BUT if T and P believed that there would be specific war crimes committed during the conduct of the war, the commission of otherwise criminal acts to prevent these war crimes would be lawful.
The questions were then about what war crimes Toby believed would be committed if war against
Iraq happened. T's fears in this regard centred around the use of cluster bombs and weapons containing depleted uranium (DU), and the disproportionate harm civilians would suffer from them, and the possible use of experimental weapons. In some of his own words, "I imagined Dresden
happening in Bagdhad".
To take these in turn at a more basic level than the discussion in court reached, cluster bombs are essentially large containers within which are approximately 200 submunitions (smaller bombs). The container is dropped from an aircraft and releases the smaller bombs as it descends. These typically spread over an area of about 100 metres by 200 metres. They are designed to explode on impact, some to penetrate armour and buildings, some to fragment and project a hail of shrapnel in all directions. All are designed to kill. Some do so immediately, and some explode on impact but cause no casualties. Others, between 5 and 20% of all the small bombs, fail to explode on impact and remain where they land. They're then effectively landmines which can kill and maim for decades afterwards. After a war is over civilians are the people most likely to be hurt by these things. Under the terms of the Geneva Conventions it is a war crime to use weapons like this, which will cause disproportionate civilian casualties and continue to harm people after the war is over. To give you some idea of the scale of the problem: During the first Gulf War about 50,000 of the United States� cluster bombs were dropped, releasing over 13,000,000 small bombs. Using the
military�s own very conservative estimate that 5% of these bombs would fail to explode on impact, there would have been 650,000 small unexploded bombs lying around. Every one of these, unless disposed of by professionals, would remain able to kill or maim if stepped on or touched by a curious hand.

Likewise for depleted uranium. It gives 'bunker busting' bombs their penetrating power, but in the process scatters radioactive dust and fragments which can be carried on the wind for miles around, contaminating the soil, water, crops and livestock and being ingested and inhaled by people. Among the consequences are genetic mutations, congenital defects, and increased incidence of cancers.

Next, the questioning was directed at how Toby had reached the point of carrying out the attempt to disable the B52s at Fairford. It was established that along with many other people, millions in the case of the biggest marches, he�d petitioned his MP and Tony Blair, attended vigils, demonstrated in
Whitehall and outside airbases, and as I said joined the largest demonstrations ever seen in this country in an effort to prevent the war going ahead. As the pro war rhetoric grew ever louder and �Shock and Awe� became increasingly likely his thoughts came to include the possibility of taking more direct action to prevent the war

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