Four activists who were found guilty of protesting against a notorious arm fair are appealing their convictions.
Solicitors from Hodge Jones Allen, who are representing all four protestors, lodged documentation at the High Court to appeal to the Supreme Court in relation to the convictions.
The activists had staged a protest before the setting up of the DSEi arms fair at the Excel Centre in East London in September 2017. The arms fair, held every two years is the largest in Western Europe and has often the target of protests. The protests have highlighted that the fair has attracted buyers from regimes suspected of mass human rights violations, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Further, on a number of previous fairs, independent monitors have found evidence that unlawful weapons had been found at the fair.
The four protestors, Nora Ziegler, Henrietta Cullinan, Joanna Frew and Christopher Cole lay down on the road leading up to the Excel Centre and locked onto each other.
At their original trial in January 2018, the activists were acquitted at Stratford Magistrates Court of “obstructing the Highway”. The District Judge found that the activists were legitimately exercising their right to free speech.
However, the prosecution appealed the conviction on a point of law. The High Court allowed the appeal, substituting convictions for the acquittals in January 2019. The protestors seek to have that judgement reviewed and their convictions overturned.
Raj Chada, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen said “There are fundamental questions at stake in this case about how far the right to free speech exists for protests that deliberately have an element of obstruction – even if for short time. There is a moral question about the UK Government facilitating the promotion of unlawful weapons and sales to despotic regimes. Our clients simply seek to highlight that and stop this trade of death and destruction”
The High Court must decide whether to “certify the questions as matters of general public importance” so that the case can go forward to the Supreme Court. A decision is expected in the next few weeks.