Smile! A Small Blow Struck for Liberty! 3

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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3 thoughts on “Smile! A Small Blow Struck for Liberty!

  • Randal

    "Civilian casualties in Iraq since the invasion are estimated between 68,796 (Iraq Body Count) and 650,000 (Lancet October 2006). "

    This kind of form of words is either dishonest or needlessly defensive (depending upon the motivation of the writer).

    The Iraq Body Count figure is emphatically not an estimate of civilian casualties in Iraq. It is merely a list of reported deaths, and therefore (as the authors admit) a figure vastly lower than the actual numbers killed. It should not be mentioned in comparison to the Lancet figure without this point being made explicitly.

    The Lancet figure, on the other hand, is the only authoritative actual estimate we have, and if the press or media want to refer to an estimated death toll in Iraq they should refer only to the Lancet figure, without the kind of minimising qualification on display here.

    And in fact an honest account would also draw attention to the fact that the estimate was for last summer, and therefore the current figure will be much higher.

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