Anti-arms trade campaigner Chris Cole arrived at Westminister Magistrates Court ahead of time to defend himself against a charge of criminal damage outside the DSEI arms fair. He was accompanied by supporters who held a small demonstration outside the court.
Fellow anti-arms trade activist Kirsten Bayes said:
“It is important to support Chris as he was trying to stop an arms fair that sells weapons to countries with dubious human rights records. Government support for the arms trade is disgusting and yet they support people trying to overthrow repressive regimes: they can’t have it both ways.”
Chris intended to plead not guilty, arguing that he was acting to prevent the unlawful activity that was taking place at the DSEI arms fair, at the ExCel centre in London’s Docklands in September 2011. He had sprayed “DSEI kills” and “Stop the Arms Trade” at the entrance to the arms fair as delegates queued to enter.
The case was scheduled just a few days after the most recent figures for UK arms exports, covering July-September 2011, were issued by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. They reveal that the UK issued licences for arms exports worth £1.3 million to Bahrain and over £1 million to Egypt, although in February 2011 the government had revoked arms export licences to both countries. Bahrain and Egypt were on the official invitation list for DSEI.
However, the trial did not take place. First, it was postponed from 10am to 2pm. Then it transpired that the court had no record of the October case management hearing where it was agreed that Chris could call an expert witness. Chris had intended to call Olly Sprague, UK arms programme director from Amnesty International UK, to tesify on his behalf on the illegal weaponry on sale at DSEI.
The case has now been adjourned until 10 May. Meanwhile, Olly Sprague has 14 days to prepare a statement, and the prosecutor has a further 14 days to reply.
All in all, a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it be better for the court to drop the case altogether?
For further information, contact Chris Cole at chris(at)figtree*org*uk.