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Jury acquits five Palestine Action activists who threw paint on London HQ of an Israeli arms firm

FIVE activists who threw red paint over the London HQ of an Israeli arms firm have been acquitted by a jury. 

Four women and a man were cleared on Wednesday of conspiracy to commit criminal damage at Southwark Crown Court in London. 

The case was the first trial involving members of the direct action group Palestine Action to be heard in the crown court. 

The case arose out of a protest held outside Elbit System’s London offices in Holborn in October 2020. 

The defendants drove up to the site in a car, with some jumping out to throw red paint from buckets and adapted fire extinguishers over the entrance of the building and pavement, creating the effect of a “river of blood” flowing from Elbit’s HQ. 

The group said the red paint symbolised the blood of the Palestinians killed by weapons manufactured by Elbit, which provides the Israeli army with drones and other arms. 

During the seven-day hearing, the five defendants argued that their action had been a proportional and reasonable response to a company they believe is guilty of war crimes in Gaza. 

“We wanted to raise awareness of the war criminal hiding behind these doors,” said one defendant in their witness testimony.

“If my actions can save a family, or stop a bomb that would otherwise have fallen on Gaza, then it was worthwhile.”

The five were found not guilty in a unanimous verdict, with Palestine Action hailing the decision as an “unprecedented victory.” 

Following the acquittal, one of the defendants told the Star: “Today the jury stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

“It shows that people understand the importance of taking action against Elbit Systems and disagree with Israeli arms companies being given a home in this country.”

The prosecution had argued that the defendants had conspired to damage Elbit’s premises using tactics that were “almost military,” using “speed and force,” and described the five as being “armed” with buckets. 

Owen Greenhall from Garden Court Chambers, representing three of the defendants, said such terms were “loaded,” and described the language used by the prosecution as “colourful.”

On the first day of the hearing, the prosecution had asked the judge to throw out a range of arguments put forward by the defence.

After taking a day to deliberate the issue, Judge Adam Hiddleston made a ruling to not allow the jury to hear human rights defences. 

Dozens of Palestine Action activists have pending trials for protests against Elbit sites across Britain.

In a statement the verdict, the activist group said: “The group looks forward to further proving in these upcoming trials that, as ruled today, Elbit is guilty and Palestine Action is not.”

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