Three more protesters cleared as DSEI arms fair trials collapse
- Credit: Archant
Court cases against three activists arrested for demonstrating a major international arms fair at the ExCeL have collapsed, following 13 acquittals last week.
Veronica Pasteur, 42, and Sarah Reader, 30, were cleared of one count of wilfully obstructing a highway, with Tom Dixon, 27, cleared of tampering with a motor vehicle after he sat on a lorry heading for the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) gun show.
All three were arrested on September 7 in Seagull Lane, Royal Docks, amid attempts to prevent weapons reaching the exhibition centre.
Sarah, of Popham Street, Islington, told the Newham Recorder how she and a friend had chained themselves under a military lorry.
“I had to put my body in the way,” she said, describing DSEI as “one of the biggest moments where our government expresses its explicit support for regimes like Saudi Arabia.”
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Organisers say the event, which attracts arms dealers from countries such as Bahrain and Pakistan, caters only to legal sales within a “well regulated environment”, a claim disputed by external organisations such as Amnesty International, who point out exhibitors have previously been caught promoting unlawful weapons.
“The defendants have been totally vindicated,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade, which organised the protests.
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“Whenever DSEI takes place there will be protests: it is an immoral and disgraceful event that brings some of the world’s worst human rights abusers to East London, it’s time to shut it down for good.”
Stratford Magistrates’ Court threw out the three cases yesterday after prosecutors gave no evidence of having obtained a statement from the ExCeL proving the protest site belonged to the centre, said defence lawyer Raj Chada, who represented Tom.
This meant the site was not a highway under the relevant legislation, he said.
“The CPS should now consider all the charges and whether it is in the public interest to keep going,” he added.
“It does no credit to the state to pursue these minor offences that it cannot prove while at the same time appearing to ignore the issues surrounding the arms fair itself.”
The acquittals marked the seventh in a series of trials that began last month.
Charges against most of the 100 or so activists arrested ahead of the fair were dropped, but 46 have still faced trial.
Nine of the 10 protesters tried in January were found guilty of obstructing the highway.