UK COURT VICTORY FOR PALESTINE SOLIDARITY PROTESTERS
Agrexco UK Blockaders Acquitted in Uxbridge Criminal Trial
From the Wall Must Fall
In a remarkable judgement yesterday, Thursday 26th Jan 2006, after a half time application by the defence team in the Uxbridge 7 trial, a District judge ruled that seven anti-apartheid protesters who had blockaded the Israeli agricultural export company, Agrexco UK, had no case to answer and the case was dismissed.
The charges of Aggravated Trespass and Failure to Leave Land were dismissed after District Judge Barnes sitting in Uxbridge Magistrates Court, found that the evidence against the defendants was too tenuous to justify continuing with a trial.
The trial had been listed for seven days but ended on the morning of the fourth day with the dramatic acquittals.
On November 11th 2004 the seven protesters succeeded in shutting down the UK distribution centre of Israel’s biggest state owned agricultural export company for over eight hours, blocking both the entrance and exit to the Agrexco UK distribution centre, near Swallowfield Way, Hayes, Middlesex, and reportedly losing the company over £100,000 in profit, which would have been channelled back into the Israeli economy. Amos Orr, General Manager of Agrexco UK, said in court that Agrexco exports from Israel and the occupied territories amount to some $700 million a year out of a total of $880 million which is the annual total of all Israeli agricultural exports. He admitted Agrexco imports between 60-70% of all produce that is grown on illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
The protest was carried out to draw attention to the complicity of Agrexco, in the system of Apartheid that is enshrined in Israeli law. The defendants acted in support of the growing campaign for an international economic boycott of Israeli goods.
At a packed public meeting at the University of London Union, Malet Street, London, on Wednesday evening, British/Israeli academic Dr Uri Davis spoke in support of the blockade action and a boycott of Israeli goods. He described Israel as the only apartheid state in the United Nations.
The November 11th protest focused on the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague, earlier in 2004, which ruled that the apartheid wall was being built on Palestinian land in contravention of international law and should be taken down immediately, and also that illegal settlements should be dismantled.
Supporters of the defendants had collected documentary evidence of Agrexco’s business operations in the Jordon Valley that would have been put forward to show their complicity in the ‘ Crime of Apartheid' which is a crime under UK domestic law under the International Criminal Court Act 2001.
As it turned out, this defence did not need to be argued, because reference to UK Land Registry documents showed that Agrexco UK had built both their entrance and exit gates on other peoples land and had no legal right to ask the protesters to leave.
It also became clear that Agrexco could not prove they were trading lawfully, being unable to show UK import licences for the stocks of strawberries that were ready to deliver on the day of the protest action.
Chief Inspector Cumber of Hayes Police who acted as police commander at the scene of the blockade invoked powers to arrest protesters who refused to leave land, but had only taken the word of Mr Orr when investigating who owned the land on which the protesters had set up the blockade.
The defence argued that even if it was reasonable for the commander to believe Agrexco UK’s General Manager when he had claimed the company owned the exit and entrance to their property, and then arrest the protesters under this belief, as this belief was wrong it could no longer be grounds for convictions for aggravated trespass.
In addition to this top Chief Inspector Cumber's testimony was undermined by his claim in court that he had given the protesters a direction to leave the property by 10:45am. Two other police officers on the scene were convinced - as were the defendants - that the protesters were granted till at least 11am to observe the two minutes silence of armistice day 2004, the day of the blockade. A police ‘decision log’ which would have documented the agreement had mysteriously vanished from police files he claimed.
The campaign to Boycott Agrexco continues. A website that will gather information disclosed through the Uxbridge case will be launched soon.
Agrexco lost over £100,000 in profits due to the 2004 blockade.
Previous coverage of the Uxbridge 7 trial
Press Release and links to related articles
IMCUK coverage of the trial (Day One)
IMCUK coverage of the trial (Day Two)
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