Tuesday, May 22, 2007
..more anon, meanwhile here's the press release:
The Oxford Support Group
Tel: 07910 329 211 Web: www.b52two.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 22 May 2007
Jury decides - not-guilty: intention to damage US bombers destined for Iraq was lawful
This afternoon, Tuesday 22 May, at Bristol Crown Court, the trial of two Oxford peace activists Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch (known as the 'B52 Two') concluded with the jury returning a unanimous verdict of not-guilty- in less than three hours. The two were charged with conspiring to cause criminal damage at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on 18 March 2003 when they tried to safely disable US B52 bombers to prevent them from bombing Iraq. The court heard the two men acted to prevent damage to life and property in Iraq, and war crimes by the aggressors .
The trial started on Monday 14 May 2007. This is the second trial for the alleged offence; the first in October 2006 ended in a hung jury, after 12 hours of deliberation spread over three days. The two accused were facing up to ten years in jail. There are two other similar cases awaiting re-trial, due to hung juries, at Bristol crown court.
The two activists maintain that war crimes were committed in the bombing as cluster bombs, which spread unexploded bomblets that kill and maim civilians (like mines) were used, as were 'bunker busting' bombs tipped with depleted uranium that fragments, spreading radioactive toxins which are harmful to civilians.
During the trial the prosecution accepted that even delaying the bombers would have prevented civilian casualties, as it would have allowed those fleeing cities more time to escape. In his hour and a half summing up today, Justice Crowther explained the legal tests that must be met for the prosecution to succeed, he reiterated the facts and summarised the evidence. A document 'steps to verdict' had been provided to assist the jury.
Toby Olditch said "We're overjoyed, and thankful for the good sense of the jurors, for the wonderful support we've received, and for the commitment and expertise of our legal representatives. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people have still suffered as a result of the Government's actions. It shouldn't have come to the point that people had to take direct action to try to check the abuse of executive power."
Phil Pritchard "I am delighted that the jury have returned a unanimous not-guilty verdict. Our action in trying to prevent illegal attacks on the people of Iraq in 2003 is vindicated. I hope war of this kind never happens again."
Media contact at court: 07910 329 211
A full press briefing is available on request. Philip Pritchard is 36 years old, and a self employed carpenter and father. Toby Olditch is 38 years old, and a self employed builder. They both live in Oxford. The defendants were represented in court by barrister Edward Rees, Q.C. from Doughty Street Chambers, London. Their solicitor is Mike Schwarz of Bindmans & Partners, London.
 The two men were arrested inside the perimeter fences at RAF Fairford in the early morning of 18 March 2003, just two days before the bombing of Iraq started. They carried with them tools to damage the planes, nuts and bolts to jam the aircrafts engines, pictures of ordinary Iraqi civilians and paint symbolizing blood and oil. They also carried warning signs for attaching to any damaged planes which would help alert aircrew to their action. The two men acted nonviolently in a way which would not result in harm to anyone, including the military personnel at Fairford. They intended to stay with the planes and tell the operators what they'd done.
 Civilian casualties in Iraq since the invasion are estimated between 68,796 (Iraq Body Count) and 650,000 (Lancet October 2006). More bombs were dropped in the initial 'shock and awe' attack on Iraq than in the whole of the first gulf war.
Tuesday 22nd - Summing up done, jury deliberating
Later - ok, here it is:
The judge sums up
He began by making clear the roles of judge and jury, “I am the judge of the law, you are the judges of fact. …..I tell you what the law is and you apply it accordingly,” and reminded the jurors that they had sworn to try this case according to the evidence presented “there will be no more and you are not to guess at what else there might have been.” He told them that they would have to consider what was said, what was done and what was in people’s minds, and most importantly, to judge all the witnesses by the same fair standards. Judge Crowther reminded the jury of the fundamental rule of law, that it is for the prosecution to prove their case, not for the defendants to prove their innocence, and that nothing less than being sure of their guilt will do – if not completely sure, the verdict must be ‘not guilty.’
Judge Crowther told the jury briefly about the progress of the case prior to this trial – that a High Court judge in 2004 had ruled that foreign policy and the use of the armed forces is a matter for the government alone and cannot be examined by the courts in this country. This ruling was referred to the Court of Appeal in London, and from there to the House of Lords, the highest court in the land, which upheld this decision. Therefore, only an international court can rule on the lawfulness of the governments decision and action in going to war. [And guess who has to authorise an appeal to the international courts? – the government’s legal advisor, the Attorney General, that’s who, he of the highly ‘revised’ opinion on the legality of this war….]
The judge explained that the charge of conspiracy to commit criminal damage means an agreement to cause damage to the property of another which is not justified in law – as an agreement requires at least 2 people, the jury must return the same verdict for both Phil and Toby. There is no argument that they agreed to cause damage to another’s property, the issue is over whether it was criminal damage, i.e. without lawful excuse, and it is for the prosecution to disprove lawful excuse.
There are 2 possible lawful excuses, and here the judge referred the jury to the ‘Steps to Verdict’ document they’ve been given. This details the elements of the 2 possible defences to be considered and in this document ‘you’ means the jury.
The opening statement of the document reads “The legality of the decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003 is not a relevant issue and the answers to none of the questions in this case can be affected by any juror’s opinion or views as to that."
1. Protecting Property
For the defence of protecting property, the defendant must have:
(i) acted to protect another’s property from damage
(In this context, you must consider whether it can be said from an objective standpoint that, on the facts as they were believed to be by the defendant, the damage he intended to carry out was to be done to protect another’s property.)
(ii) believed that another’s property was in immediate need of protection
(iii) believed that the means of protection used or to be used by him was reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.
In answering (ii) and (iii) above, it is immaterial whether these beliefs were justified provided they were honestly held when he acted.
If you are sure that the answer to any of these points is “No”, then this defence doesn’t apply and you will go on to consider the next defence, below.
If the answer to all of them may be “Yes”, then your verdict will be “Not Guilty”.
[The judge amplified point (i) by acknowledging the suggestion made by the prosecution that publicity or protest might have been Phil and Toby’s aims, but made it clear that this does not detract from the defence if the protection of another’s property was any part of their intention.]
2. Use of force to prevent a war crime
Was the defendant intending to use reasonable force to prevent a war crime?
The law allows a defence where a person uses force in order to prevent crime, and in doing so uses only such force as is reasonable in the circumstances.
A war crime to be committed on foreign soil is is capable of amounting to such a crime as it is an offence triable in the UK.
The prosecution have accepted that both defendants honestly believed at the time they made the agreement to commit damage that a war crime might be committed at some stage.
To act lawfully in using force to prevent crime the defendant must have:
(i) intended to commit only such damage as was necessary to prevent such a crime;
(ii) such damage as he intended to commit was reasonable, judged by you in the light of all the factual circumstances the defendant believed to exist at the time;
(iii) he believed such damage was capable of preventing such a crime being committed.
If you are sure that the answer to any of the points above is “No”, then this defence doesn’t apply.
If the answer to all of them may be “Yes”, your verdict will be “Not Guilty”.
[The judge’s comment re. point (ii) was that the damage they intended to commit must be reasonable in all the circumstances, including but not limited to those the defendants believed to exist. Also that the jury are not required to decide whether a war crime would have been committed, but whether the defendants were intending to use reasonable force to prevent a war crime.]
So endeth the document and Judge Crowther's summary of the law as it relates to this case. Then, he reminded the jury of the evidence they had seen and heard, or at least the parts he thought important and relevant. This was basically a fairly even-handed run through of what we've already told you, and he made clear that the jurors might decide differently which evidence was important. After which, at about 12.30, he sent the jury out to consider their verdict.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Monday 21st May - all the inaction!
So, without the trial to distract us we've been doing our various things - family things, friends things, and catching-up-with-the-blog things, as you'll see if you read the postings below. A word of warning though: because we got a bit behind with it the chronology may seem a little wonky. To try to help you sort it out, here's A Brief History of Time, The B52two version:
Monday 14th May, jury sworn in, introductory speeches made by prosecution then defence.
Tuesday 15th, the presentation of the prosecution case, jury shown bags of nuts and bolts etc, policeman gives evidence, Phil and Toby's video shown to court.
Wednesday 16th, the defence begins, Toby gives evidence and is cross-examined.
Thursday 17th, Toby's cross-examination is concluded, he is re-examined, Phil gives evidence, is cross-examined and re-examined, the prosecution make a last minute concession.
Friday 18th, prosecution closing speech made, followed by defence closing speech.
Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th, various weekend diversions.
Monday 21st, juror unwell, everything postponed until tomorrow, we hope...
The defence's closing speech - heard on Friday 18th.
Next, Mr Rees reinforced that an acquittal in this case would not be ‘a recipe for anarchy.’ He described as ‘a narrow gateway’ the criteria determining the defences which may be raised against a charge of criminal damage. The defendants must genuinely believe that a crime is going to be committed - therefore, for example, the defence would not be open to a person acting to prevent something which, though controversial and possibly the focus of strong moral objections, is not a crime. He stressed particularly the ‘objective overlay’ that the action taken to prevent the crime must be reasonable in the circumstances – this is what the jury have to decide. In most circumstances, it is not reasonable to damage property but we are dealing here with very exceptional circumstances. Ed reminded the court that it’s been said that a jury represents the collective good sense of the community (let’s hope so – ed.) and that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, i.e. if a juror simply cannot decide, then the prosecution have not proven their case beyond doubt and that juror should therefore say ‘not guilty.’
The jury will have, to help them through the legal highways and byways, a document drawn up by both sides and approved by the judge, known as ‘Steps to Verdict’. This is a sort of flow chart channelling the jury’s decision making according to what the law actually says, though of course it is for the jurors to weigh the evidence against this. I shan’t (and probably shouldn’t) go through it all now, but maybe we can put it up here later.
Ed told the court that although the crime of aggression was not tryable (triable? well, not that either) under English law, specific war crimes are. He compared the bombing of Iraq with the blitz of Bristol in WWII, wondering how the people of Bristol would have reacted to the Germans dropping cluster bombs on them because they’re near the docks. Wouldn’t they consider it reasonable and proportionate for a German citizen to try to prevent it by disabling the bombers?
Ed reminded us that the indiscriminate destruction of a country’s civilian infrastructure is not allowed under the rules of war, nor is the sapping of a country’s morale a legitimate target. He pointed out that America is hardly short of weapons and could choose not to use cluster bombs and depleted uranium-containing munitions.
In conclusion then, in the circumstances pertaining at the time, Phil and Toby’s actions were both reasonable and proportionate weighed against the magnitude of the crime they were trying to prevent.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
We know better.
Incidentally, I missed Mr Blair's closing speech as I was listening to the report of the House of Lords' debate on cluster weapons held the previous day (Thursday) - everyone (except the Foreign Office minister) seems to have got the point that they (the cluster bombs, not their lordships - that's another argument for another day) are 'an affront to humanity' and is calling for an outright international ban on the use of any type of cluster munitions, supposedly 'smart' or otherwise. It was reported on Today in Parliament and you can listen again here:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/radio4_aod.shtml?radio4/tip - it's about 16 mins from the start of the programme as far as I recall.
Ed Rees' closing speech for the defence was rather longer and will get a separate post. Meanwhile, I must gather my clean socks and prepare to trundle back down to Bristol. Tomorrow (Monday) morning, the judge has a couple of documents to ok, prepared jointly by the prosecution and defence, then he will give his summing up and send the jury out to consider their verdict. So, we could conceivably have a result tomorrow.
A more complete account of Thursday 17.05.07. Brace yourself, it's worth it.
Right then, here we go. It's Sunday morning, and i woke up ridiculously early for no good reason whatsoever after a Saturday night drinking and dancing with lots of lovely people to celebrate Martin and Hannah's wedding, so please excuse me if my trping's a bit squiffy or the coherence is a little in-.
Before i get started on Thursday's business, at the risk of turning this from a court diary into a gossip column, and with apologies to anyone who might think this the wrong forum for it, I'd like to state for the record that M & H (or is that too much like the high street shop? Perhaps Mannah, inna celeb couple gossip column stylie? EminH? Manadopoulos?). Anyway, the aforementioned newly married couple are two of the loveliest p you could hope to m, so three cheers for them, and here's hoping they'll continue to be jolly happy together!
Right then, again. Thursday at Bristol Crown Court, All Rise for His Honour Judge Crowther, who declared it Wig-free Thursday. Perhaps he and the other barristers just couldn't contain their envy of Ed 'no rug' Rees any longer.
Anyway, whatever the reason, a de-peruked Mr Blair’s first sally of the morning concerned a document Toby and Phil had written, titled ‘The Legal and Moral defence for the Fairford Disarmament Action.’ As the name implies, this explains why P and T felt obliged to carry out their action, and justified in doing so. Asked whether everyone had the same duty to act in the same way, Toby replied that an individual’s responsibility is dependent on personal circumstances, including the extent of their knowledge, and constraints placed on their ability to act by responsibility for dependents. Additionally, while we elect political representatives to act on our behalf to regulate the action of the state, if those representatives and the political process fail, as in this instance, to prevent the state’s complicity in the commission of crimes, then it becomes the responsibility of individuals to act, as they are able.
Mr Blair also asked whether Toby acknowledged that other individuals might not share his views, and whether his decision to act allowed for the expression of different viewpoints. His response was that while other people might not have shared his views, firstly he considered that in possession of the same knowledge as he was at the time they would probably have changed their minds, secondly that a huge number of people in the country did share his attitude, and thirdly that the contrary view was given full expression in the form of the war.
Asked why he had given a no comment response to almost all of the questions he was asked at Stroud Police station after his arrest, and why he hadn’t instead asked the police to intervene to prevent the war-crimes he expected to be committed, Toby suggested that midnight, after 18 hours in custody, wasn’t the best time to try to explain himself in that way; that he had asked the police to view the video of himself and Phil and the personal statements and other evidence they had carried with them explaining their expectations re war crimes, and that although his experience both beforehand and when in custody was that many police officers had sympathy with his views about the war, he was also aware that they were not permitted to engage in discussions that might be regarded as political.
Discussing his anticipation of the commission of war crimes, Toby said that his research had shown him that, contrary to Mr Blair’s suggestion, the cluster-weapons likely to be used were not newer and more precise than those used in previous conflicts. Indeed, the name given to them by manufacturers and the military, ‘area impact munitions’, shows that inaccuracy is designed into them. Mr Blair queried whether the use of cluster weapons against troops wouldn’t be justified, to which T responded that although the immediate aim might be legitimate, the failure rate of the weapons and their consequent effects long beyond the duration of the conflict would make their use unjustified.
The prosecution’s final question was about the reasonableness of Toby’s action. This lies right at the heart of the case, as one of the key questions for the jury to answer is: “GIVEN TOBY AND PHIL’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE SITUATION, WAS IT REASONABLE FOR THEM TO ACT AS THEY DID?” A test the jury may be asked to apply is whether, in the same circs and with the same beliefs regarding those circs, a hypothetical reasonable person would have acted as P and T did. Toby’s response, one which has been consistently given to this area of questioning, was that to his mind doing limited damage to a machine while causing no risk of harm to anyone else is an entirely reasonable act if it might help to prevent the deaths of 500,000 innocent civilians.
Ed Rees’ re-examination covered:
The leaflet question - No, Toby didn’t believe that the B52s he intended to damage would have been flying off to drop leaflets on Iraq.
The secret-weapon-in-a-bunker scenario – in the event of needing to destroy such a bunker, T believed that the US has weapons it could use that don’t contain depleted uranium.
Why T didn’t plead with the police to prevent the commission of war crimes – that was the purpose of the video and evidence pack he’d asked them to look at. Plus a prosecution for war crimes in this country would require the consent of the Attorney General [and we all know how likely it is that he’d have agreed to it!]
Why didn’t T wait for the result of the parliamentary debate on 18.03.03? – Because he had no doubt that the US intended to go to war whatever the result.
And finally, was this a symbolic act? – well, no. Putting nuts and bolts in the engine of a plane would have been a very practical way to prevent them from flying and dropping the bombs whose use constituted a war crime.
WAKE UP! It’s the interval – time to go to the bar, have a fag etc. This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but it’s a lot more interesting live. However, leaden prose is the only medium I have, so I guess I’ll plod on for now and try to give it a bit of bounce in the editing. Do try not to fall asleep again, there’s good stuff coming up…
Phil’s evidence-in-chief started with reference to his scientific background – a degree in microbiology, which would later lend weight to his observations about the effects of depleted uranium. In the meantime he said that on the basis of what he’d read and heard in the media, in March 2003 he believed that the US’ intention was to drop 3000 bombs on Iraq in the first 48 hours of ‘Shock and Awe’, ten times as many as had been dropped in the first gulf war, in an attempt to destroy Iraqi morale. He expected that the result of this would be horrendous carnage inflicted on the population and the devastation of the countryside, so he hoped that one consequence of his decision to take action to delay the start of Shock and Awe would be that more civilians could leave urban areas likely to be affected by the bombing before it happened.
He explained that he and T intended to work calmly but quickly to immobilise planes, and that he had believed that if they succeeded there was a strong likelihood that they would prevent those planes from flying for a significant length of time because of the rigorous safety checks that would then have been carried out on them.
Having confirmed that he was in agreement with all that Toby had previously said about the action, and that there was much that needn’t be gone over again, Phil went on to speak with impressive knowledge about the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) in weapons. He informed the court that whereas previously DU had been a component of armour-piercing rounds used by helicopters and tanks, by the time of Shock and Awe large ‘bunker-buster’ bombs had been developed which used DU for its pyrophoric qualities - this means that on impact DU burns and sharpens itself, so that it continues to penetrate whatever it encounters. The downside of this phenomenon is that as it burns an aerosol cloud of minute uranium oxide particles is released, which can then be dispersed on the wind. The particles settle and can be incorporated into soil and watercourses, vegetation and the animals that eat it, and the animals that eat them or their produce, i.e. people. People can also take in DU particles more directly, by inhalation. Whatever the route into the body it then accumulates, particularly in the bones, and because it’s mostly insoluble can only be partially cleaned out by the body’s own natural systems. In fact DU’s own decomposition is the major way its radioactivity in the body will be reduced, and it decays so slowly that it only becomes half as radioactive as it was originally after 4 billion years.
The evidence about the likely use of and consequences of exposure to DU that had led to Phil deciding to take his action came in various forms. There was the article in The Ecologist magazine of March ’03 which cited statements from the Ministry of Defence to the effect that DU would be used in future conflicts, patent applications filed by Lockheed Martin featuring DU in the construction of large bombs, and the parliamentary written answer by Adam Ingram, a defence minister, confirming that UK forces operating in the Gulf would have weapons containing DU in their arsenal.
Phil also cited a report by Malcolm Hooper on behalf of the Gulf War Veterans Association, which details the exposure of UK and US troops to DU during the first Gulf war and the neuro-cognitive and reproductive impairments those troops suffered; the research in Afghanistan that found DU present in cities there after the 2001 invasion by US/UK forces, and populations suffering health problems including leukaemia and birth defects at abnormally high levels; and the BBCScotland programme which found DU present in all of the 22 people whose urine was sampled in Bosnia and Kosovo, even in the urine of the cameraman who’d only gone there to make the programme.
The last thing Ed Rees asked Phil was what he thought of Toby’s view that Shock and Awe would further damage a civilian infrastructure (electricity generation, sewage and water treatment) that had already been degraded under the sanctions imposed after the first gulf war. Phil agreed, and referred to conversations he’d had with Andrea Needham, a friend who’d spent time in Iraq in the early 90s, in which she’d stated that there had been “only one ambulance working in Baghdad”. He also quoted Dennis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the UN and UN aid co-ordinator in Iraq during the 90s, who resigned from the UN and that aid programme rather than participate “[…] in the process of destroying a nation.”
And that was me trying to keep it brief!
So, the Prosecution’s turn to ask Phil some questions. Rather than relaying everything police-interview-style I’ll just try to let you know what Phil said.
He spoke of seeing photographs of Iraqi children, and reading/hearing about the planned campaign of Shock and Awe and feeling an incredible drive to prevent the horror he foresaw. Asked about whether he acted reasonably, he responded in a very similar vein to Toby earlier, saying that he believed the damage he had hoped to do was completely proportionate when weighed against the use of cluster and DU weapons and the loss of civilian life to come.
Regarding whether he should have waited until parliament had voted later on the 18th of March Phil said that the democratic process can sometimes move too slowly, and at that time he believed that the US had already made the decision to go to war, with or without the UK and regardless of any vote by the UK parliament. He cited the well-publicised war summit in the Azores at which it was widely reported that the US had finalised plans to go to war, and Donald Rumsfeld's statement on the 11th of March that the US would go it alone if necessary, i.e without a second resolution from the UN or the support of any other country. On the18th March he believed there was an immediate need to act, that an attack was imminent and that stopping a plane while it was stationary rather than taxi-ing down a runway would be safer for all concerned.
He said that he strongly believed that the B52s would be carrying weapons containing DU – citing information he had gathered from a US Airforce website, entitled ‘Meet the B25 Stratofortress’, in which DU weapons were listed among the bombs routinely carried by the planes. The use of a bomb containing DU would inevitably be a war crime, he said, because such weapons cannot discriminate between civilian and military targets and personnel. Also the effects, which would last long beyond the conflict, cannot be confined to the battlefield.
Similarly, the indiscriminate nature of cluster weapons, their failure rate, and the fact that they persist long beyond the conflict all inform his belief that the use of such weapons necessarily constitutes a war crime.
Phil acknowledged that there was a contrary view about the legality of DU weapons, but again said that despite this he thought it had been reasonable for him to act because of the huge imbalance between the damage he’d hoped to cause and the damage Shock and Awe was likely to cause.
Ed Rees’ re-examination:
About the democratic deficit, i.e. why didn’t P just accept that the government’s will was law? Because despite the very obvious public opposition to the moves toward war the govt refused requests in the summer of 2002 by both its own and opposition MPs to recall parliament for a debate on the apparent progress to war, then allowed no real opportunities to debate the issue before March 2003. Even then proposed motion didn’t provide a true opportunity to vote for or against war.
Was it unreasonable to act? No, large number of demonstrations and other evidence of public anti-war activism showed that P’s opposition was in tune with national mood. Also there was all the evidence, rehearsed above, that the attack on Iraq was imminent.
And lastly: Why are B61 DU bombs listed under the heading of Nuclear weapons in the list of bombs on the USAF’s Meet the B52 Stratofortress information? Because Depleted Uranium is radioactive, just like the materials used in other nuclear weapons.
And as if that wasn’t enough, we were presented with a surprise finish to the day – a concession by the prosecution! As a consequence of Phil’s assertion that any delay their action might have caused would potentially have resulted in fewer civilians remaining in urban areas likely to be bombed, the prosecution withdrew a suggestion made during their cross-examination of Toby that “realistically, [P and T causing] a delay would have no effect”.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Yesterday....dum de dum de dum de duuum de dee
And now, on with the court report (or is that debutantes in long white gloves? Anyway, this is what happened in Bristol )
Oh dear, now I really am confused as I see my bosom pal and fellow blogger has got there before me (we're geographically separated though one in the blogosphere) and started reporting Thursday - which is good as I'm in a similarly post-celebrational state after a brilliant time making merry at Martin and Hannah's wedding. Those legal beagles may have managed to get rid of their wigs, but we certainly let our hair down. So, I shall abandon this and start anew for Friday. Pip pip.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
The Management wish to apologise.....
i.e. the wifi network we forked out to use has been down, so your fave blogsters have been denied the opportunity to foist our witterings on an unsuspecting public ( come on, you weren't all that unsuspecting, were you?) Such is my urge to communicate with you that I am committing the considerable social faux pas of tapping away on my hosts' computer whilst out for supper - well, I didn't want anyone to think we'd forgotten you, dear readers. However,
i) I think supper's nearly ready
ii) I've left my notes behind
iii) I want to spend time with my friends while I've still got some
so I shall say merely that Toby's cross examination by Mr Blair ended (though not without several further references to leaflets - perhaps our learned friend should see someone about this sorry obsession) , Phil has completed his evidence, and tomorrow will see both sides give their closing speeches. The judge has said he will give his summing up on Monday morning.
My partner in crime blog-wise is currently prepering a far meatier report of today's doings, which will hit your screens asap - fingers crossed for the wifi connection.
Bon appetit, and goodnight.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
End of day 3..
Question: what's this pink thing?
Answer: the kind of thing Mr Blair (I mean the prosecuting QC, but it could well be the other Mr Blair also) seems to think would be dropped from B52's onto Iraq - a Barbie pink tank cosy. Mmmm, nice.......but hardly likely, I think? Actually, it was leaflets he suggested were to be dropped, but we think cuddly toys would be a nice touch.
And now for today's quiz.
1.Imagine if you will, that war is imminent, and some planes are about to set off from the UK. What do you suppose they would carry?
b) custard pies
c) cluster bombs and other munitions
2. If you wanted to prevent war crimes, would you :
a) ask a nice friendly policeperson to investigate your concerns
b) get shut out of yet another pro-war MP's surgery
c) go to Fairford and try to prevent planes from taking off
3. If you wanted to invade Iraq, and had thought up some jolly good reasons which were unfortunately totally unsupported by any evidence, would you:
a) lift someone else's dodgy dossier and present it as True Fact?
b)twist your colleagues' arms until they agree to at least pretend to believe you
c) listen to the majority of your electorate and consider that there could be some alternatives to waging war, inevitably causing thousands of civilian casualties?
Answers at the bottom
What else happened today? Toby gave evidence and did very well, but he's not finished yet and still under oath so he's not allowed to talk about it.....fortunately for y'all, we can blather on regardless and probably will.
So, from the top, Ed 'The Crooner' Rees, QC for the defence (who is really trying to get close to that microphone, urged on by the judge) called Toby to the witness box. Toby was sworn in and Ed's questions started - initially to give a thumbnail sketch of the beliefs that lead him to take this action and what he intended to do. He went through his understanding of the political and military lead-up to the invasion, including the situation post the first Gulf war since when the bombing of Iraq has never completely stopped. Toby talked about how previous conflicts have been conducted, such as the first Gulf war, Kosovo and Afghanistan; the weaponry and how it has been used, and the situation in Iraq resulting from years of punitive sanctions. These have left the country and its inhabitants desperately vulnerable, with the infrastructure ( water, sewage treatment, electricity etc.) on the verge of collapse. It is reliably estimated that over 1 million Iraqis have died as a result of the sanctions, more than half of them children. In particular, Toby described cluster weapons, their inability to be targeted accurately and the way in which as many as 20% of them fail to explode on initial impact, leaving them armed and extremely unstable. They remain hidden where they fell (which can be over an area equivalent to 3 football pitches) in house gutters, farmland, trees - anywhere- and are effectively land mines, which civilians bear the brunt of. This renders huge areas of farmland unsafe, denying people the ability to grow food without serious risk of death or injury.
Ed took Toby through his knowledge of the B52's arrival at Fairford and their likely deployment in the planned massive air bombardment known as 'Shock and Awe', to disable Iraqi defences before ground troops went in. Then we had a brief tour of some of the exhibits as Toby explained what he'd do if they had got to the planes, namely putting nuts and bolts in the engines' air intakes and affixing warning signs - 'Danger - Bomber Grounded'. Phil and Toby planned to do this to as many planes as possible before they were stopped or ran out of warning signs - their primary concern whilst trying to stop the loss of innocent life in Iraq, was to ensure nobody was endangered as a result of damaging the planes. They also planned to seal the bomb doors with pictures of Iraqi civilians; splash red and black paint, symbolising blood and oil, over the planes (which would also alert the USAF personnel to possible damage); drape a big colourful banner proclaiming 'Swords into Ploughshares - Hope and Resistance' over the plane, and above all stay there until they were taken away.
Oops, out of time again cafe's closed, so I'm off home. Until tomorrow....
Answers to today's quiz
Mostly As - are you Mr Blair? or at least one of them?
Mostly B's - mmm, getting there - have you considered standing against Gordon for the Labour party leadership?
Mostly C's - you're obviously far too well informed for your own good, and willing to take action. Keep it up!
More - and we're still on day 2
an art installation project of peace
So, after lunch we all had a little sit down in front of the telly, watching the video that Phil and Toby had made before their action, which explained what they were going to do, what they hoped to achieve and the reasons why. The jurors appeared very focussed, concentrating throughout the 40 mins tape. It's good to see people paying serious attention, and watching it again reminds us why we're doing this.
Out of time now as the wretched blogger site's beeen scrambled and we need to go to court - more later.
Ok, it's later. There was other stuff yesterday afternoon but it's hard to give the gist of it briefly.
I'm going to leave it until I can get someone else to bend their brain to it, and crack on with today's court action - see next post.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
So, more discussions about the right and proper way to do this blogging business have led to the conclusion that there are certain things we won't put up here - namely the details of the legal arguments conducted in the absence of the jury. However, even the jury (who should stop reading this right now if any of them are because the judge told them not to go anywhere near the interweb, far less looking at things about this trial) know that they've happened, so you can too but we're not going to tell you exactly who said what, so there. It's possible, though I admit less than likely, that the details will be put up here when the trial's over, so you could come back to look in a week or so, but you'll probably have other things to do, as we will. Some getting drunk, some going back to tend to their families/gardens, some going to sort out the chaos left behind on Sunday before rushing down here at the last minute.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves - it's only day two. During which the indescribable legal arguments occupied the morning, and the jury action started at about midday with the prosecution reading statements made by the police who arrested the daring duo. These were followed by the presentation of an enormous number of things Phil and Toby took with them on the action. Personally I'd have thought the guards would have spotted the pantechnicon they must have used to carry it all before T and P could drive it through the fence A Team style and do donuts on the runway. (You'll note these are American donuts, for reasons which will become apparent....) Daft ramblings are plainly not on our self imposed banned list...
The first exhibits the jury saw were some photographs of casualties of the first gulf war. As they studied and passed them around the mood seemed sombre. More evidence of the process of consideration, research and planning Phil and Toby went through, and of the terrible consequences of the projected assault on Iraq was contained in the evidence packs they took with them (more of which later.)
Boredom replaced other emotions as the long list continued, though light relief was provided by the flashing deely boppers offered for consideration but alas not modelled by the prosecuting lawyers. Weightier consideration was given to the bags of (by now rather rusty) nuts, bolts and nails which T and P planned to put in the jet engines' air intakes, but they did not reveal any hidden clues. The transformative potential of this disarmament action was exemplified by the soil and seeds T and P took to plant on the base. Particularly important were the warning notices they took to put on any damaged planes, alerting the military personnel to the danger of attempting to operate them.
Next stop A Witness - Squadron Leader Ivor Morris, the head honcho RAF-wise for the Fairford base. It became abundantly clear through his evidence that the RAF had no real jurisdiction there and all decisions about operations were the business of the US Air Force. He agreed with the characterisation of the RAF as the landlord and the USAF as the tenant, (though in this case the tenant seems to choose the road names too, such as 'Idaho Street' and 'Ohio Avenue' - I kid you not.) The bill for the fence repair, presented in evidence, was in US dollars......
Even more worrying was the evidence presented in 2 copies of the base magazine, published by and for US personnel, the 'Fairford Flyer' - logo a B52 bomber. Both issues contained features and pictures describing in celebratory terms the work of the 'maintainers', who build the bombs B52s drop - I quote, "it's about building things that go boom", 'Maintainers unleash B52s', and the comment "there's no better feeling" from a maintainer watching a loaded bomber taxi towards take-off.
Mr Morris also described security arrangements at the base. Most interestingly that as soon as base personnel knew of any unauthorised entry all normal work would be halted, all gates closed, all buildings searched inside and out, and a sweep made of the entire site. This seems to indicate that Toby and Phil's action, while not achieving all their aims, must have had the effect of delaying the start of the bombing.
That took us up to lunchtime, and we'll post the afternoon's stuff asap, but now we've got to go.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Things got under way with the prosecuting QC, Mr Blair, treating us to a brief summary of the case against Toby and Phil. He described what they did - from agreeing (conspiring) to go to Fairford, to cutting the fence and entering the base carrying peace poppies, pictures of Iraqi casualties of the first Gulf War, video and text explanations of their action, a banner, soil and seeds (to transform the runway into a peaceful place), and nuts and bolts to put in the aircraft engines.
Mr Blair sugested that they couldn't have really believed that the action would seriously affect the course or conduct of the 'shock and awe' onslaught which began the war, and that publicity was actually their prime motive. I assume that his purpose in suggesting this was to undermine the defence that the action was a reasonable attempt to prevent the comission of a crime and damage to Iraqi civilian property. He went on to suggest that Phil and Toby (and everyone else in the country) had plenty of other legitimate avenues of protest, and that this action fell outside that category. Yup, the A word came out very quickly (3.33pm according to Ginny, who wins a gold star for paying very close attention). (A for Anarchy, by the way).
Ed Rees, Defence Counsel, explained that while there's no disagreement over the facts of Toby and Phil conspiring and going to Fairford intending to disable B52 bombers, their defence rests on the reasonableness of their actions in the light of their, also undisputed, honestly held beliefs that war crimes were about to be committed. He referred to the facts that Fairford is effectively an American base, that B52s stationed there were being prepared to drop bombs on Iraq, and that these were likely to include cluster weapons and depleted uranium containing weapons. As is widely known, such weapons have effects which cannot be specifically directed at legitimate targets, thus making a belief that war crimes were imminent entirely reasonable. The prosecution has to prove that what Phil and Toby planned was unreasonable despite all of this.
And that was pretty much it for the day. Jury due back at midday tomorrow, we'll let you know what happens.