Protesters cleared of sabotaging US bombers
On Tuesday 22 May,
at Bristol Crown Court, the trial of two Oxford peace
activists Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch (known as the 'B52 Two') concluded
with the jury returning a unanimous verdict of not-guilty - in less than three
The two men were
charged with conspiring to cause criminal damage at RAF Fairford in
Gloucestershire when they tried to safely disable US B52 bombers to prevent
them from bombing Iraq. They were arrested inside the perimeter fences in the early
morning of 18
March 2003, just two days before the
bombing of Iraq started. They carried with them tools to damage the planes, nuts
and bolts to jam the aircrafts engines, pictures of ordinary Iraqi civilians
and paint symbolizing blood and oil. They also carried warning signs for
attaching to any damaged planes which would help alert aircrew to their action.
The two men acted nonviolently in a way which would not result in harm to
anyone, including the military personnel at Fairford. They intended to stay
with the planes and tell the operators what they'd done.
The trial started on
Monday 14 May
2007. This is the second trial for the
alleged offence; the first in October 2006 ended in a hung jury, after 12 hours
of deliberation spread over three days. The two accused were facing up to ten
years in jail. There are two other similar cases awaiting re-trial, due to hung
juries, at Bristol crown court.
The court heard that
the two men acted to prevent damage to life and property in Iraq, and
war crimes by the aggressors [Civilian casualties in Iraq
since the invasion are estimated between 68,796 (Iraq Body Count) and 650,000
(Lancet October 2006). More bombs were dropped in the initial 'shock and awe'
attack on Iraq than in the whole of the first gulf war]. The two activists maintain that war crimes
were committed in the bombing as cluster bombs, which spread unexploded
bomblets that kill and maim civilians (like mines) were used, as were 'bunker
busting' bombs tipped with depleted uranium that fragments, spreading
radioactive toxins which are harmful to civilians.
During the trial the
prosecution accepted that even delaying the bombers would have prevented
civilian casualties, as it would have allowed those fleeing cities more time to