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Activists have arms factory charges dropped

SEVEN activists who occupied an Israeli arms factory in Kent have had their charges dropped.

The group broke into the Instro Precision factory — owned by Israel’s largest private weapons firm Elbit — last August, blockading the door and forcing its closure for two days.

On Thursday, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) threw out charges of aggravated trespass — saying there was “not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.”

But the Stop Elbit activists believe the case was dropped to save the Instro Precision factory in Sandwich from scrutiny.

The defendants had intended to argue that the factory’s activities were unlawful and that they were acting to prevent a crime.

They claim that parts produced at the factory are used to make weapons sold to countries accused of violating international law and human rights, such as Israel and Turkey.

Stop Elbit activist Susannah Mengesha said: “We can only conclude that the CPS dropped all charges against us because somebody doesn’t want the full extent of information about the deadly weapons Instro is producing to become public.”

The group’s lawyers had requested details about Instro Precision’s involvement in producing parts for drones and tank targeting systems.

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle intended to support the activists in court by pointing out that Britain has previously sold arms illegally to repressive regimes.

Last year, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) won a case in the Court of Appeal which found that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia had been unlawful.

Overwhelming evidence showed that weapons were being used against civilians in Yemen, thus breaking arms licencing laws.

Mr Russell-Moyle said: “In my view, it would be reasonable for any member of the British public to believe that the government is not upholding provisions of the Export Control Act that safeguard the use of weapons in war crimes or other violations of international humanitarian law.

“I am left with the impression that Britain’s arms-export-control regime functions only up to the point that it becomes politically or economically expedient to ignore it.”

CAAT media coordinator Andrew Smith hailed the case as a “victory for the anti-arms trade movement,” which exposes the “moral bankruptcy of Elbit.”

He told the Morning Star: “If this had gone to trial then Elbit would have had to answer questions about its shameful conduct and practices — and I expect they are glad to have avoided that.”

Instro Precision had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.

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