That Dark and Stormy Night
On January 17th 2009 six people broke into EDO MBM/ITT in Brighton and caused £189,000 worth of damage to computers, servers, lathes and other equipment. The activists, calling themselves the ‘decommissioners’, took their action in response to the Israeli assault on Gaza which had claimed 1,400 lives by the 17th. EDO MBM/ITT manufactures the arming unit for the Israeli F16 bombrack.
Court in the Act
The six were arrested, along with three people alleged to have supported the action. All nine were charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage. At a month long trial at Hove Crown Court seven of the activists argued that they had a lawful excuse to damage EDO’s property as the company was complicit in war crimes. All seven were acquitted on July 2nd 2010 after the jury gave five unanimous not guilty verdicts and the judge directed that the final two should be acquitted. One activist had been found with no case to answer earlier in the trial due to lack of evidence.
The decommissioning of EDO MBM/ITT completely closed the factory for several days, until the main Israeli assault on Gaza was over. Paul Hills, MBM’s stony faced MD, gave evidence that some of the factory’s production machinery was out of action for up to a month. US contract information shows that ITT was negotiating the sale of further arming units at the time of the action but that the contract fell through.
“It’s a real victory for the anti-war movement, The jury were presented with the facts and they supported our motivations. If people in Britain knew the truth away from media manipulations they would all support our actions” - Ornella Sabeine, EDO Decommissioner.
The six had pre-recorded videos to be posted on Indymedia after the action. In his video Elijah Smith said “I don’t feel I’m going to do anything illegal tonight, but I’m going to go into an arms factory and smash it up to the best of my ability so that it cannot actually produce munitions and these very dirty bombs that have been provided to the Israeli army so that they can kill children. The time for talking has gone too far. I’m not a writer, I’m just a person from the community and I’m deeply disgusted”.
The jury requested to view those videos again before they made their historic decision ...and they obviously liked what they saw.
The Trial of Paul Hills
In effect the trial was turned around: it was EDO MBM in the shape of managing director Paul Hills who found themselves in the dock. Laughably they had come to court intending to pass themselves off as a company primarily manufacturing in-flight entertainment equipment. He was presented with a dossier of evidence painstakingly built up over the years by campaigners, which pointed firmly at the company’s complicity in war crimes.
Perhaps we should spare a thought for Paul standing right now in front of ITTs board explaining how a bunch of goddam two-bit limey soap-dodgers were able to smash his factory up with hammers and walk out of court smiling. The answer is that Paul Hill’s evidence was more full of holes than his factory’s windows. Here’s just a few edited highlights of five days of his cross-examination. Hills revealed that the company have owned the rights to the main bomb rack used on Israeli F-16s - the VER-2 - since 1998. He admitted removing website evidence of his company’s dealings with Israel as early as 2004, the date of the first protests. He admitted having interfered with the crime scene, retrieving debris and papers, before police photographers arrived. He claimed to have police permission but no police statement backed him up. There has been speculation that £189,000 is actually an underestimate of the damage caused and that more controversial evidence may have been spirited away. After being warned at one stage by the judge that he was at risk of perjuring himself if he contradicted evidence he’d produced in earlier court cases, crucially he ended by admitting that anyone looking at the evidence presented to him in court would form the reasonable belief that his company was involved in arms sales to Israel. It was this that the defendants needed to convince the jury of - that there was an obvious link between this factory and the bombardment of Gaza.
A witness, Sharyn Lock, provided the background necessary for the jury to understand the full scope of the horror then unfolding in Gaza. Now a trainee midwife, in 2009 she was a human-rights volunteer in Al-Quds hospital, Gaza City. She was in the Gaza strip for the whole of Operation Cast Lead, and able to show footage of a missile strike on the hospital and give evidence that F16s were among the planes attacking. The jury also saw news reports of the white phosphorus attacks on the UNWRA compound, which incinerated much-needed food and medicine. Sharyn closed her evidence by saying she had no doubt that those who armed the Israeli Air Force ‘had the blood of children on their hands’.
And then they came for the judges...
The acquittals caused a furious zionist backlash in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle, the Daily Mail, the Spectator and Israel's Jerusalem Post with Melanie Philips calling the judge a bigot and the Zionist Federation recommending a change in the law to stop people from being able to use 'lawful excuse' as a defence.
On the more positive side, the decommissioners were congratulated by Noam Chomsky, who said “I would like to express my respect and admiration for those who are undertaking non-violent resistance to oppose British participation in Israel’s cruel crimes in Gaza”.
So what's next for Smash EDO? The campaign is planning a mass 'siege' of EDO MBM/ITT on 13th October 2010. The action is dubbed “ITT's Hammertime”, in honour of the decommissioners, and marks the start of a final push to close down the Brighton factory. Smash EDO are calling for people from across the UK and beyond to join us in besieging the factory. Activists are being asked to turn up on the 12th, convergence space will be provided. The location of the demo isn't being announced at the moment so keep checking www.smashedo.org.uk/hammertime.htm. Email email@example.com to sign up for updates on the demo.