TWO peace activists who attempted to disable fighter aircraft destined for Saudi Arabia to attack Yemen appeared in Burnley magistrates’ court yesterday accused of criminal damage.
Sam Walton, a Quaker from London, and Daniel Woodhouse, a Methodist minister from Leeds, tried to disable Typhoon fighter jets at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire, on January 29. They cut through a fence and forced a hangar door, but were arrested before they could reach the aircraft.
The pair say their actions were in the cause of preventing a greater crime. The case is expected to last three days. Mr Walton told the Morning Star that he believed the authorities did not want the case to reach a higher court and face trial by jury because of past precedents.
In 1996 a jury gave “not guilty” verdicts on three women who damaged warplanes at the same BAE site in Lancashire. The aircraft were destined for Indonesia where the country’s government was waging war on the people of East Timor.
Mr Walton said: “This case is not about us. It’s about British Aerospace [BAE] and their complicity in wars. “The planes are worth about £1 billion. We have been charged with committing £1,000 of damage to a fence and a hangar door because they do not want it to go to a jury trial.
“We were prepared to go to prison for 20 years if necessary.”
Supporters of the defendants in Burnley magistrates’ court yesterday included some of the women who damaged warplanes at the same site in 1996. Typhoon fighter jets are being used by Saudi-led forces in the current bombardment of Yemen, in which more than 10,000 Yemeni people have died.
Britain has licensed the sale of £3.8bn worth of arms — including bombs, vehicles, grenades, drones and missiles — to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began in March 2015.
The Rev Woodhouse said: “The fighter jets being made in Warton are being used to destroy Yemen. The atrocities being committed against the people of Yemen are being done with the full complicity of Downing Street.
“The real crimes here are the decisions of BAE Systems and the UK government to keep arming and supporting the brutal Saudi regime.”