A judge has ruled that three activists have ‘no case to answer’ just hours into the first day of a planned three-day trial.
The activists, Seokyung Song, Emma Christie and Alice Gibson, were charged with aggravated trespass for their role in a Palestine Action protest against the offices of arms company Elbit System in Aztec West on November 2, 2021.
During that action, the defendants climbed onto the roof of the office building, occupying it until later being removed by police.
Inside Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Monday, October 17, Elbit and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to provide evidence that the activists had disrupted any lawful activity.
District Judge Mark Wattam returned his verdict some six hours into the hearing, ruling that in the absence of clear evidence the defendants had no case to answer.
Song, Christie and Gibson left the courthouse shortly afterwards to be were greeted by the crowd of supporters who had waited outside the courthouse, on Marlborough Street, throughout the day with banners and Palestine flags.
In a statement, the activists said: ‘Today we stood up to Elbit Systems in court, forcing this murderous company to reveal to the public authorities the extent to which it lies to the public about its lethal dealings.
‘Elbit was so invested in maintaining the falsehood that it does not export weapons of mass murder to Israeli defence forces that it was unable to marshal any convincing evidence, failing to answer questions effectively and leaving the judge with no choice but to dismiss the case.
‘Elbit is guilty, and we won’t stop until their secrets are dredged to light and all their sites are shut down.’
Monday’s ruling continues a trend of Palestine Actionists being acquitted in court for actions against Elbit. In January, an activist who protested the DSEI arms fair in London had charges dropped the day before their trial, whilst in February charges against four more activists were dropped before trial.
Fahmy, a spokesperson for Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘Elbit Systems’ operations in Bristol are integral to Israel’s systematic expropriation and oppression of the Palestinian people.
‘Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign stands in solidarity with all those in the UK, including Palestine Action, working through peaceful means to prevent Israeli abuses, and in support of Palestinian rights.’
Palestine Action is a direct-action network of groups and individuals formed with the mandate of taking direct action against Elbit Systems’ British locations at grassroots level, calling for them all to be shut down and for the British government to end its complicity in Israeli apartheid.
Elbit Systems is Israels’ largest privately-owned arms manufacturer. The company has eight factories and offices in the UK. A ninth, in Oldham, was sold in January after sustained pressure from activists.