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Lawful Excuse?

Prosor. Angry at judge Photo: AP
Prosor. Angry at judge Photo: AP
 
 

UK: Intruders acquitted for 'preventing war crimes in Gaza'

Israeli ambassador furious after court clears five residents who caused £180,000 damage to Brighton arms factory, ruling they committed offense to prevent more serious crime

Roni Sofer
Published: 07.02.10, 07:38 / Israel News

Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ron Prosor has harshly criticized a British judge who displayed a blatant anti-Semitic stand, after a jury acquitted five residents who broke into an arms factory and caused heavy damage. The five defendants said they were seeking to prevent war crimes in Gaza.

 

Judge George Bathurst-Norman suggested to the jury, "You may well think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered in that time," the Guardian newspaper reported.

 

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Prosor responded to the remark on Thursday night, saying that "after reading the judge's statement, there is no doubt that this is not a great era of the British justice system. I assume that Sderot's children, who have lived under thousands of missiles, for years, will be able to enlighten the judge as to the meaning of 'hell on earth.'

 

"I am convinced," the ambassador added, "that his honor would have ruled differently had he been sitting in the Sderot youth cultural center, rather than on Brighton's sunny shores."

 

According to the report which angered the Israeli ambassador, the five were acquitted despite causing £180,000 (about $270,000) damage to the arms factory shortly after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

 

The five admitted they had broken in and sabotaged the factory on the outskirts of Brighton, but argued they were legally justified in doing so.

 

They said they believed that EDO MBM, the firm that owns the factory, was breaking export regulations by manufacturing and selling to the Israelis military equipment which would be used by the Israeli army against in the territories. They added that they wanted to slow down the manufacture of these components, and impede what they believed were war crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinians.

 

'Proud of what I've done'

One of the defendants, Robert Nicholls, told the Guardian after being acquitted: "I'm joyful really, at being a free man. The action was impulsive really, we just wanted to do something that would make a real difference to the people of Palestine."

 

Another, Ornella Saibene, said: "I've felt very peaceful all the way through the trial because I'm proud of what I've done. It was the right thing to do."

 

According to the Guardian, the group used the "lawful excuse" defense – committing an offenSe to prevent a more serious crime – as a tactic in their campaigns. Four of the activists, aged 25 to 52, are from Bristol. The fifth lives in Brighton.

 

The British report mentions the Goldstone Report, which ruled that Israel had committed war crimes during the Gaza offensive.

 

Ambassador Prosor, who has been dealing with serious incidents of delegitimization – in universities, economic organizations and the British press – on a daily basis, has decided not to keep silent. Nonetheless, it appears his protest will not be enough to change the grim situation of Israeli PR in the UK.

 

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