Palestine Action activists will argue they had “lawful justification” to commit burglary and criminal damage against a company they wanted to shut down, a court has heard.
The eight defendants, including the group’s co-founders, are charged with offences relating to a campaign to put Elbit Systems’ UK arm “out of business”.
Opening the prosecution case at Snaresbrook crown court in north-east London on Monday, Sally Hogan said the defendants, who are not all charged with each of the 13 counts, do not deny committing burglaries, causing damage to the outside of buildings, threatening Elbit’s landlord, Jones Lang LaSalle, in order to put the company out of business nor possession of articles with intent to cause criminal damage, but claim they were entitled to do so in law.
She told the jury: “They caused damage to property, damage that caused thousands of pounds. They went into buildings as trespassers with the intent of causing damage … Why did they want to do that? They wanted to put Elbit out of business.
“They say what we did was with a lawful justification and that is the stark issue for you, members of the jury [to decide upon].”
Hogan said Palestine Action was a “lawful protest group”, set up by Huda Ammori and Richard Barnard, who recruited the other defendants and other individuals to their organisation. She told the jury the prosecution case was that the pair “in a sense directed to others about what they should do”. Hogan said Ammori and Barnard had posted online about what they were doing and “why they said they were justified in taking the action they took”.
The prosecutor said that while there was a right to disagree and protest in the UK, the demonstrations by Palestine Action had crossed the line of what was allowed into unlawful protest and had not followed the rule of law.
She said: “It won’t have escaped your knowledge that there have been many protests recently but the prosecution say there are rules, there are laws to prevent offences being committed during the course of protests.”
The defendants – Ammori, Barnard, Caroline Brouard, Jocelyn Cooney, Robin Refualu, Genevieve Scherer, Nicola Deane and Emily Arnott – are all charged with encouraging people to commit criminal damage against Elbit, which they all deny in fact and in law. They have pleaded not guilty to all of the offences, which are said to have occurred between June 2020 and February 2021.
The case is expected to last six weeks.