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Further collapse of DSEI protest trials

Posted on: 15th February 2018

Following the acquittal last week of 13 people arrested for demonstrating against the DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) arms fair at the Excel Centre in London in 2017, three further cases were thrown out today at Stratford Magistrates Court.

Raj Chada a criminal defence lawyer at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen represented Tom Dixon, one of the protesters, who was cleared of the charge of interfering with a motor vehicle after he sat on top of one of the lorries going into the Excel Centre.

Mr Chada said that the prosecution offered no evidence in court today having obtained a statement from the Excel Centre that the site where the defendants protested belonged to the Excel and therefore was neither a road nor a highway for the purpose of the relevant legislation.

Following the latest acquittal, Mr Chada said: “Another week and yet another case from the DSEI arms fair colapses. The CPS should now consider all the charges and whether it is in the public interest to keep going. It does no credit to the state to pursue these minor offences that it cannot prove while at the same time appearing to ignore the issues surrounding the arms fair itself.”

Today was the seventh in a series of trials that began in January. More than 100 people were arrested in September 2017 outside the Excel Centre in east London, during the DSEI arms fair, which takes place every two years. Likely the largest event in the world, the fair attracts international arms dealers from countries including Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and UAE.

Charges against most of the protesters were dropped, but the remaining 46 activists have faced trial throughout January and February. Nine of 10 protesters tried in January were found guilty of obstructing the highway. Four protesters were acquitted of obstructing the highway on February 7th when the judge found their actions ‘reasonable’.

Opponents to the arms fair have pointed out that exhibitors have previously been found to be promoting unlawful weapons, specifically in 2007 and 2011. These breaches were discovered by external bodies such as Amnesty International and other NGOs. Since 2015, DSEI has banned such organisations from the fair.

Opponents also point out that some of the world’s most repressive regimes buy weapons at DSEI. Saudi Arabia, for example, is accused of committing breaches of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity in Yemen, with the aid of weapons purchased from UK companies. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia have increased by nearly 500 per cent since the start of the war in Yemen, with more than £4.6bn worth of arms sold within the first two years of bombings.

Ends

For further information, please contact Nicola Pearson at Black Letter Communications on 020 3567 1208 or at Nicola.pearson@blacklettercommunications.co.uk

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