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VICTORY AS EDO INJUNCTION TRIAL MISFIRES
Another blow struck for free speech in Sussex. The nasty little stitch up between Sussex Police, arms dealers EDO MBM and protest bashing lawyer Timothy Lawson Cruttenden (see SchNEWS 492, 471) to crush dissent has started to unravel.
EDO MBM, who manufacture parts for the Paveway bomb system and are involved in the manufacture of unmanned combat air vehicles, much loved by the US and Israeli militaries for targeted assassinations, are now ducking for cover as the legal bombshells go off in their own faces.
Back in March 2005 the arms dealers, urged on by Kerry Cox of Sussex Police, applied for an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act which would have limited the regular pickets of the factory to ten silent protesters on a Thursday afternoon (See SchNEWS 492). No doubt they were assured by Britain’s leading expert “quote” Timothy Lawson Cruutenden (TLC) that this would soon put paid to the pesky protesters. The injunction, by its definition of ‘protester’, initially applied to everyone on the planet. Although the judge refused to impose limits on numbers it confined protesters to a narrow grass verge opposite the factory. It also prevented them from filming. This was vigorously enforced by a combination of private security and heavy policing. Private security goons abused their immunity from video in a series of provocative actions. Over thirty arrests have been made at the factory since court proceedings began last March and two protesters were remanded to HMP Lewes for alleged breaches of the injunction.
Despite the prospect of hefty legal bills, the fourteen individuals named on the injunction mounted a vigorous defence. In shades of the Mclibel Trial (See SchNEWS 79 & 485), the case has proved an embarrassing PR fiasco for the US-owned bomb manufacturers. A two-day hearing saw their fat being pulled out of the fire by the Attorney General as they were accused of war crimes (See SchNEWS 521). Then MBM MD David Jones ‘retired’ on 31st December. TLC has repeatedly attempted to delay a full hearing of all the issues, perhaps because many of the allegations made against activists (such as shining lasers into the eyes of employees) were so spurious that they would not stand up in court.
As the case began to turn sour, TLC resorted to bizarre intimidatory tactics, such as revealing his knowledge in an email of a protester’s private phone numbers and his dubious acquisition of one prominent activists private diary, which had been ‘anonymously left’ at his office. His level of information on individuals, which included access to statements from a number of police forces from criminal cases which hadn’t yet been to court, pointed to high level and highly improper contacts within the police. In fact when a judge ordered him to reveal details of correspondence between the corporation, the police and himself, he refused on the grounds that EDO ran a paperless office while his was ‘full of papers’. SchNEWS reckons it’s not just papers TLC’s full of. This refusal brought a warning from the Judge that he had ‘grave concerns’ about TLC’s conduct and advising him to seek legal representation to defend himself from allegations of professional misconduct.
Ordered to seek mediation with the defendants, executives from the US parent company EDO Corp flew in to broker a deal. The first thing to go was the definition of protester, meaning that legal restrictions on demos at the factory no longer apply to anyone else but those named. Next the company agreed that if the seven legal-aid defendants agreed not to assault EDO employees then they would drop the proceedings against them. As legal aid would have been withdrawn anyway if they refused, they accepted and left EDO to pick up the two hundred grand legal bill. The other defendants are fighting on to expose EDO’s machinations in open court.
In another twist last week, three people were acquitted in Brighton Magistrates of holding an illegal assembly of …er three people outside the factory in March last year. The case collapsed because the police wanted to hide their operational decisions during ‘Operation Kirk’ behind a Public Interest Immunity certificate. According to their press release this was because ‘the prosecution were asked to disclose specific details in relation to operational tactics and sensitive information used to brief police officers. As a result the prosecution took the decision to not disclose the details and took the preferred option to offer no evidence in this case…’ Yer ever cynical SchNEWS can’t help but wonder how many of those ‘operational tactics’ were discussed in EDO’s boardroom, which might make the information very ‘sensitive’ indeed. But we're sure it's all on the level.
Spokesman for SMASH EDO Andrew Beckett told SchNEWS, “We always knew that this attack on our rights was politically motivated and involved high level co-operation between the police, the lawyers and the arms dealers - but to have it becoming public knowledge is amazing. The collapse of the injunction is a major victory for civil rights and the peace movement. We will now be fully able to express our disgust at the presence of a bomb manufacturer in the middle of our community. We will be here until EDO isn’t.”
Feb 14th 4-6 Outside EDO MBM ‘Naming the Dead’. The names of civilians killed in the invasion of Iraq will be read outside the factory.
March 1st Victory Demo - With all restrictions removed on protest outside the factory this is gonna be a big one.
* See www.smashedo.org.uk
CIVIL RIGHTS: FIGHTING THE CRACKDOWN
Maya Evans (First person convicted of holding an illegal demonstration outside Downing St).
Local Anti ID card campaigners.
Friends Meeting House, Brighton, Thurs February 23rd 7pm.