Anti-war activists cleared of plot

Two activists accused of plotting to cause thousands of pounds of damage to a weapons factory have been cleared after claiming to be preventing Israeli war crimes.

Christopher Osmond, 30, Elijah Smith, 42, and six other anti-war campaigners admitted they broke into the Brighton headquarters of EDO MBM in the early hours of January 17 last year and sabotaged equipment in the region of £200,000.

During their three-week trial at Hove Crown Court, it was argued they were acting with “lawful excuse” to prevent further alleged war crimes being committed by Israel against Gaza.

On Friday, Osmond, from Brighton, East Sussex, and Smith, from Bristol, were acquitted of conspiracy to cause criminal damage on the directions of the judge, George Bathurst-Norman.

Earlier this week Simon Levin, 35, from Brighton, Tom Woodhead, 25, Ornella Saibene, 50, Bob Nicholls, 52, and Harvey Tadman, 44, all from Bristol, were cleared of the same charge.

Another defendant, Rosa Bellamy, 23, from Brighton, was cleared part-way through the trial on the directions of the judge who ruled the prosecution had not proved its case against her.

Outside court, campaigners said that they believed EDO MBM was breaking export regulations by manufacturing and selling to the Israelis military equipment which would be used in the occupied territories.

The defendants’ solicitor, Lydia Dagostino, said: “We are delighted at the result. I think it sends a clear indication that sometimes direct action is the only option when all other avenues have failed.”

Following his acquittal, Osmond said: “It was the right verdict. Our action was because nobody else was willing to take action. During one operation 1,400 people had been killed, 350 children had died, and nobody was willing to take action.”

Sussex Police said that, while they respected the decision of the court, 20 people had been convicted following four major demonstrations or targeted action aimed at the firm, which is owned by US defence contractor ITT, during the past two years.

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