Three Palestine Action activists, dubbed the ‘Elbit Three’, have today been found not guilty of criminal damage charges in a trial taking place at Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates Court. The trial, which commenced on Friday 3rd December, saw Elbit Systems and the Crown Prosecution Service attempt to criminalise individuals who took a stand against the manufacture of drones and drone parts. The products manufactured at the site of the protest, the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, are key components for a range of Elbit’s combat drones, used extensively by Israel for bombardments of Gazan civilians.
Elbit Systems are Israel’s largest private arms company, supplying 85% of Israel’s drone fleet. Their Hermes drones, manufactured with UK-made components, are regularly deployed in bombardments of Gaza, with Elbit also supplying a range of surveillance equipment, armaments, and specialist military technologies for the Israeli military and police. Palestine Action have undertaken a campaign of sustained direct action against Elbit Systems – across their 10 sites in the UK – with this action in Shenstone having occured in January 2021, six months since Palestine Action launched. Despite many dozens of actions taken, and over £15,000,000 in damages caused (according to police), this is the first time that activists had faced trial, with all previous charges having been dropped in the run-up to trial dates.
The presiding judge, Judge Waites, stated that the Crown had failed to prove that convicting the defendents would be proportionate with their freedom to protest. He stated further points which included: Palestine is an important issue, the arms trade is an important issue, the defendants believed in what they were doing, and the location was specifically chosen. These are the points that Palestine Action has long stated: through targetted and deliberate direct action, individuals can make a measured impact on the lives of civilians in Palestine by disrupting and undermining Israel’s arms trade.
For more information, please read our full press release below and share this victory widely!