In March 2016, eight anti-arms trade activists in the UK were acquitted by a magistrate in the UK, having taken direct action against the DSEi arms fair, including several members of WRI affiliated organisations. The Crown Prosecution Service – who originally prosecuted the group – attempted to appeal the decision, but that appeal has been rejected by a judge as “frivolous” and “misconceived”.
Activists outside court after the verdict
In court, the activists had argued that the DSEi arms fair had facilitated war crimes and illegal weapons sales in the past and was likely to have done when it took place, and in making his judgement, District Judge Angus Hamilton held that there was “clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015". Following the verdict, the CPS had sought to appeal the acquittal to the High Court. In rejecting the appeal, Hamilton said “The CPS application repeatedly significantly misrepresents the contents of the judgement delivered at the end of the case and therefore seeks to challenge the decisions reached on wholly erroneous bases ...the very least the CPS should do is read the judgement fully and, if appropriate, frame their application based on what was actually decided rather than what they seem to believe was decided.”
In a joint public statement the defendants’ campaign said: “Win or lose, we have throughout remained wholeheartedly at peace with our actions to try and shut down the fair. We choose to remain on the side of history that rejects the facilitation of torture and mass indiscriminate killing for corporate profit. As ever, our only regret is that we didn’t stop the arms fair. As fresh evidence continues to emerge of the suffering caused by arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other brutal regimes the UK government's position grows increasingly untenable. The dictators are set to return to our doorstep in September 2017. Through direct action and using a diversity of tactics we can all act to shut down the DSEI arms fair – next year and for good.”