CAAT Press Conference As CAAT Wins Landmark Case Against Government

April the High Court handed down a ruling in favour of CAAT and The Corner House, finding that the government had buckled under pressure from a Saudi prince and unlawfully ended the investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Given the landmark status of the Court’s judgment a press conference was held to field the massive media interest, and arriving early before the ruling was made public, the tension and sense of trepidation in the air was tangible.

Having never met a journalist before (never mind attended a press conference) I shared in the mood of nervous excitement as I helped to welcome and register the mixed bag of scruffy ruffians and suit-clad media people that would constitute our audience. Weaving through the throng I overheard a well-known journalist speaking on his mobile phone. He described the Court’s judgement as ‘withering’ and said he’d never heard anything like it. Despite the unassuming look of many, their tardy tendancies and willingness to squash into a room already packed to the rafters, journalists are tough. They often hold a lot of sway in whether and how the public recieves a story, and this press conference would be a crucial chance for CAAT to elucidate a stronger stance for supporters and answer back to critics. Representatives from two dozen media houses attended, reflecting the truly national implications of CAAT’s court case and maximising exposure for an important but oft-overlooked cause.
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London CAAT Map Activism Award

A London CAAT map on platial.com has won a site award in the “Activism” category. The map, called London Arms Trade, shows the locations of the offices of weapons manufacturers and distributors in London.

When the local London group was set up, it was determined to highlight the immorality of the ‘defence’ industry. The map was created using CAAT’s resources and the British Defence Equipment Catalogue, to begin to pinpoint those involved in making London the capital of the world arms-broking trade.
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CAAT wins again !

Just a quick one to say how excited I am that CAAT and Corner house have won the court case last Friday :). The permission has now been granted to bring a full judicial review against the governments decision to cut short a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged corruption by BAE Systems in recent arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

That really is fantastic news!

 CAAT Control BAE protest in May

Well done to everyone who campaigned for the SFO inquiry to be re-opened and thanks a million to those of you who helped me raise 280 quid  on pledegebank for CAAT to go ahead with the legal challenge. The money really helped to make a difference. Or as my friend Masa put it: “That was 10 quid well spent!”:)
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Diary of an anti-arms trade campaigner in exile

The reason why I have not been blogging for ages is simple:

I haven’t been around. Here are a few lines on the difficulties of being an anti-arms trade campaigner in exile:

Three months ago I left London for a research trip to Ukraine and that’s when things really started to get going:

Two days before my departure University College London, my university we had so desperately tried to persuade to ditch its shares in arms companies, quite unexpectedly announced that it wants to develop an ethical investment policy.

What an incredible campaigning victory!

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DESO down, DSEI to go

The Prime Minister’s statement of 25th July that the Defence Export Services Organisation, based in Bloomsbury, will be shut by the end of the year is a great success for the peace movement in general and Campaign Against Arms Trade in particular. CAAT’s Shut DESO campaign, which included encircling the building with a human chain in October 2006, culminated with the handing in of a petition calling for DESO’s closure with over 10,000 signatures to the Chief Secretary of the Treasury.

Ouside DESO

I had signed that petition and got involved with the Shut DESO campaign because it was so obvious how wrong it was to have 500 civil servants in the heart of the government working for the interests of the arms trade. Continue reading “DESO down, DSEI to go”

The new regime

Until the recent shocking events of the past couple of days our new Prime Minister Gordon Brown seemed to have a permanent grin attached to his face. In every photo in every paper there he was beaming from ear-to-ear, an expression that I had never seen him reveal as Chancellor. Gordon Brown had obviously been waiting a very long time to be PM and he was going to enjoy it.

So here it is then, a new Prime Minister and a new political era of sorts.

I imagine the way Brown conducts his activities will be less tainted with the cringe-worthy sense of celebrity that Tony Blair always seemed to want to espouse.

And also, we hope, less tainted by the sleaze that was becoming a daily fixture during the last years of the Blair premiership.
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Protest at BAE Systems AGM

Just came back from the CAAT protest at the BAE Systems AGM. It was a great success. Before the start of the AGM we gathered in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.

Some protesters had prepared a stunt: One of us dressed up as a judge. Two others were dressed up as Tony Blair and as BAE Systems CEO Mike Turner. They grabbed the judge and gagged him.

Tony Blair and Mike Turner silence a judge

The stunt was very popular with the media. There were loads of photographers taking pictures. Our stunt was also really popular with the tourists on their way to Big Ben. Continue reading “Protest at BAE Systems AGM”

BAE spies with their (…) eyes

I used to live, for several years, in Eastern Europe. I have since resigned myself to the fact that there probably is a nice little folder with my name on it somewhere in the Belarussian KGB archives documenting most of my life (where I went, conversations I had etc.) in Minsk. It’s a chilling thought.

What had I done to deserve being spied on? I worked as a volunteer with people with disabilities. How subversive! I always tried to shrug being spied on off as something you get when you live in a country which is under authoritarian rule. As Belarus wasn’t “my country” I could always leave if I didn’t like the spy-thing.

Well – I have left. I am back in “my country” and here I am worried that I was being spied on again. BAE Systems have previously used agents to obtain all sorts of personal and confidential information on CAAT staff and supporters. This time round Paul Mercer of LigneDeux Associates, who was hired by BAE systems has received a confidential CAAT e-mail and passed it on to BAE systems.
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Stop the Death Trade in London

London CAAT met at 11am today to start our “Central London Arms Trade Crawl” outside BAE’s headquarters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in this first leg we were emphasising the corrupt nature of the trade in death in our home city. The secluded Carlton Gardens, where the firm that the government won’t allow to be investigated for corruption shares a building with investment bankers, is a few hundred metres from Buckingham Palace. Crime evidently pays very well.

After forty minutes of chatting with and handing out leaflets to some of the people coming in and out of the building and those around it we began the short journey to the far busier Haymarket. At noon we were outside New Zealand House, which houses the offices of Land Rover Leyland International Holdings, the parent company of Ashok, which agreed to sell military trucks to Sudan despite the embargo there. The focus here was on the indiscriminate nature of the trade and the mention of Darfur was a definite catalyst for passers by to agree to sign our petition.
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News from Bristol

Sorry I am so late in posting this. But it is a good time for it, as we have just had a successful public meeting this evening organised by Bristol CAAT, on the title “A law unto themselves: BAE, the arms trade and corruption”. The speakers were Nick Gilby (fellow blogger here) and Nick Hildyard of Cornerhouse.

We relaunched Bristol CAAT just about two years ago – we’ve been a bit on and off to be honest, based most of the time round a few most active people, but we’ve managed to put on a number of pretty good events – public meetings, dayschools, forums, protests at careers fairs where arms companies were recruiting and the like – as well as a very good research programme carried out by students at Bristol University, Tom, Maeve and Sarika, pulling together information on the activities of local arms company bases – including major BAE and Rolls Royce plants. Lately, we’ve had a few new people getting involved and enthused, so we’re hoping to become more active in the near future.
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