Upping the Ante: UK Abruptly Drops Case Against Apartheid Protesters

Days before their court date, prosecutors have suddenly dropped all charges against nine Palestine solidarity activists who occupied and shut down an Israeli-owned U.K. drone engine factory to protest British-made arms being used by Israeli forces in Gaza. The case was dropped evidently because neither Britain nor the Israeli defense giant Elbit Systems wanted to have to release documents about U.K. arms trade with Israel and the use of drones during last summer's Israeli assault on Gaza that killed over 2,300 Palestinian civilians, including hundreds of children -  use the protesters charged constitutes illegal "aiding and abetting of war crimes."

The nine demonstrators with London Palestine Action were due to go on trial this month for aggravated trespass after they halted production during a sit-in at the Staffordshire factory of UAV Engines Ltd, a subsidiary of the Israeli defense giant Elbit Systems, one of the largest manufacturer of military drones for the UK military. Elbit markets its technology as “field tested,” meaning it has been tested on Palestinians.

Scaling the roof of the factory last August at the height of the Israeli assault on Gaza, the protesters locked the front gate of the factory, tied themselves to the roof, unfurled a massive banner and bunked down. After being arrested, they pleaded not guilty to charges of “preventing lawful activity” on the basis that the operations at the factory were aiding and abetting war crimes and therefore illegal, arguing in pre-trial hearings they acted “to prevent the inevitable death, injury and suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

This week, charges against them were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, which said there was "no longer a realistic prospect of conviction" after Elbit refused to hand over documentation detailing its licensing, exports and use of drone engines in Gaza. Activists, who have called for an arms ban, celebrated the legal victory as a “green light" for further such actions against the factory and others supporting Israeli apartheid. "The most decisive evidence, we feel, is that they dropped the charges," the activists said in a statement. "The UK government have run scared from having their role in Israeli war crimes put on trial."

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