Daily archives: May 24, 2007

Smile! A Small Blow Struck for Liberty!

Jury decides – not-guilty: intention to damage US bombers destined for Iraq was lawful

Report by Tabitha

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[1]. The court heard the two men acted to prevent damage to life and property in Iraq, and war crimes by the aggressors [2].

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.”

Editors Notes

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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

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More Right Wing Guardian Propaganda

In the light of three men under control orders apparently absconding, the right wing media are having a field day.

Michael White, sole living member of the Jack Straw fan club and spiritual leader of the Guardian New Labour hacks, has written a “right-wing bigot in the lounge bar” piece to explain that that this terrorism is all the fault of human rights and judges.


He fails to note that the men have never been convicted of anything. If the evidence is “Solid” that they were plotting acts of terrorism, then charge them.

It is also rather strange to bluster on about the need to be able to deport people, and then complain because they may have left the country. Finally, of course, there is the strange logic that it is fine for British soldiers to invade Iraq and kill people, and it is fine for many thousands of British mercenaries to go to Iraq and kill people, but very wrong for our abscondees to want to go and kill people. A more logical position might be to oppose anybody heading off to Iraq to deal in death. Or put another way, accepting as a hypothesis (with no evidence ever produced) that these men do want to kill British troops in Iraq, there is an unavoidable prior question of what on Earth our troops are doing there in the first place. That question doesn’t seem to occur to Mr White.

Finally, a thought on communications intercepts. The government remain deeply opposed to the use of these in court. I am in favour. If surveillance has been properly and legally carried out, it should be admissible. The truth of the matter is that the Government does not want revealed how weak its so-called intelligence often is.

I can give one example. According to the US intercept agency the NSA, Al-Qaida frequently use the word “Wedding” as code for a suicide bombing. I recall as Ambassador being deluged with intercepts of “suspicious” conversations like “We’re going to a wedding in Bokhara.” Of such flimsy stuff is most of the material. If they keep it from court scrutiny, they can persuade natural authoritarian brown-nosers like Michael White to publish that it is “Solid”.

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Letter to the Guardian

I have just sent this letter to the Editor of the Guardian, not for publication:


We have never met, although the Guardian was good enough to give me a column during the general election campaign, and I have written several comment pieces for you since.

I admit there are people in this country, a minority, who still support the Iraq war. Tony Blair did succeed in capturing the Labour movement, and so it is understandable (though to me regrettable) that a newspaper with ties to the broad left would contain a strong element which supports Blair. I have lived with that and never quite broken my 35 year old Guardian reading habit.

But I do think that Simon Tisdall’s unquestioning purveyance of US anti-Iranian propaganda just goes too far. For one thing, you would have completely to shut off your critical faculties to accept some of the scenarios he was fed by the US as plausible. And Tisdall was not retailing the story as “Isn’t it interesting, the US is saying this”, he was relating their wild surmise as plausible fact.

Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment – which is always superb – has an excellent comment on the piece, which I think well sums up the baffled bemusement of the intelligentsia.

I was rather hoping Tisdall was giving us another San Serife, but the date was wrong.

Get a grip! You are supposed to be an Editor. I was, genuinely, a great fan of your writing as a reporter. Of course, some brilliant footballers make lousy managers.

Craig Murray

I’ll post a reply if I get one.


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