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Arms trade trial delayed as Gaza protests rock Britain

Marches against war sweep country as Elbit 5's case is paused until 2022

A HIGH-PROFILE trial against activists who occupied an Israeli arms factory has been postponed just as protests supporting beleaguered Palestinians swept the country.

Five members of the Palestine Action group had been due to appear at Staffordshire Crown Court on Monday following their protest at a weapons factory owned by Elbit Systems — Israel’s largest private arms company — whose weaponry is used by the Israeli military in Gaza.

The trial would have coincided with Israel’s devastating bombardment of the Gaza strip, where at least 33 people — including eight children — were killed early on Sunday in a seventh night of relentless bombing. 

But in a last-minute decision, the court case has now been postponed until 2022. 

The defendants, known as the Elbit 5, were arrested after temporarily shutting down the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, for three days last September. 

The group claims that engine parts produced at the factory are used to manufacture drones deployed by the Israeli military in Gaza. 

Amnesty International previously found evidence suggesting British-made engines were being used to power drones used in Israel’s brutal attack on the strip in 2009. 

Palestine Action had hoped that the trial would put a spotlight on Elbit’s operations in Britain, with co-founder and defendent Huda Ammori saying that it was an opportunity to “put Elbit in the dock.” 

Documents potentially revealing details of the production of Israeli military parts in Britain will now not be disclosed while the world’s eyes are on Gaza. 

While the firm, which has four weapons factories in Britain, has been targeted by anti-arms activists for more than a decade, Ms Ammori said Elbit consistently drops charges against campaigners. 

“Not a single person has ever been prosecuted for taking action against Elbit and this is because cases are systematically dropped and in this case it has been adjourned and delayed,” she told the Morning Star.

“Elbit cannot afford to lose in court because it shows activists taking action have the full right to do so.”

The move to adjourn the trial, which is now reportedly scheduled for October 2022, allows the prosecution to combine their cases with other Palestine Action members facing conspiracy charges. 

The group claims defendants could face harsher sentences as a result.

At the weekend, hundreds of thousands joined protests up and down the country to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people against Israeli aggression. 

In London, organisers said over 100,000 marched from Marble Arch to the Israeli embassy. 

Protesters let off flares in the colours of the Palestinian flag, while groups climbed the scaffolding of the Daily Mail offices in Kensington and chanted “Free, free Palestine,” echoed by the crowds below. 

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told crowds: “It’s our global voices that will give succour, comfort and support in those settlements alongside Gaza and all over the West Bank [and] East Jerusalem who are suffering at this time.

“End the occupation now. End all the settlements now and withdraw. End the siege of Gaza now.”

Other speakers addressing the crowds included former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Labour MP Zarah Sultana and rapper Lowkey.

Later on, riot police guarding the Israeli embassy charged protesters who threw objects into police lines. At least nine people were arrested, according to the Met. 

In Manchester, 10,000 attended rallies jointly organised by Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Palestine Action. 

During the protest cyclists from the “Big Ride for Palestine” cycling group were cheered as they arrived, including actor and Morning Star ambassador Maxine Peake.

The event included the construction of a “refugee camp” symbolising the fate of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians evicted from their homes during Nakba or “catastrophe,” when Israel was founded in 1948.

Manchester PSC chairwoman Norma Turner said: “We are here to support the Palestinians defending their homes against Israeli evictions in Jerusalem.

“Not only today, but every day, we must call for victory for the Palestinians.”

Protests also took place in Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham and in dozens of smaller towns and cities.

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