crowd Leicester
© UnknownStaff of 28 police versus people outside Elbit-in-Leicester • May 24 2024
Two activists from Palestine Action were unanimously acquitted of criminal damage by a jury in Leicester Crown Court after one hour and 40 minutes of deliberation. For six days from 19th May 2021, four people occupied the roof of UAV Tactical Systems, an Elbit drone factory in Leicester. The action was taken urgently in response to the ongoing bombardment of Gaza at the time.

Whilst on the roof, the activists spray painted messages including "Shut Elbit Down" and "Free Palestine", damaged a skylight to reveal a military drone inside and sprayed the building in blood red paint. In total, it was claimed that the knock on costs of extra security since the action amounted to £40K of losses per month, totalling £1.6million.

Three days into the action, two of the four came off the roof in order to ration supplies. The jury heard from one defendant about how the two which remained on the roof and were subsequently charged, resorted to drinking rainwater in order to maintain the disruption for as long as possible in order to save lives in Palestine.

The defendant explained how the factory, which is majority owned by the Israeli weapons firm Elbit Systems, was used to assemble drone equipment for the Israeli military and the ways in which Elbit's drone are deployed in Gaza. Between the defence and prosecution, the agreed facts of the cases included the factory's export licenses of weaponry to Israel for use by the state of Israel.

He spoke through reports by drone wars and human rights watch which explained the numerous war crimes which have been conducted in Gaza using Elbit's drones, leading to deliberate massacres of the Palestinian people. The jury also heard of how hundreds from the local community supported the action, several of which were arrested for attempting to throw water to the activists on the roof.

The defence argued that the action taken was necessary in order to save lives and prevent the greater property damage in Palestine. In her closing speech, Mira Hammad from Garden Court North Chambers told the jury:
"The consequences of failing to act would mean the death of children, parents, grandparents in Palestine and prioritising Elbit's right to property over Palestinians right to live is a 'smokescreen of dehumanisation'."
The prosecution case was led by Louis Mably KC, instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service. The defence barristers Owen Greenhall from Garden Court Chambers and Mira Hammad were instructed by Kelly's Solicitors in Brighton. The case was trialled by Judge Keith Raynor.