UK drops trial against Israeli arms factory protesters

Protesters shut down work at an Israeli-owned arms factory in the UK last year. (Block the Factory/Twitter)

Prosecutors have dropped charges against seven activists who shut down an Israeli arms factory in the UK last year.

The activists on Thursday vowed to continue disrupting the company’s operations.

They had been due to stand trial for aggravated trespass next month for their protest at the Instro Precision arms factory in August.

Before the trial’s collapse this week, they had each been facing up to three months in jail and the possibility of fines.

The group pleaded not guilty in November, arguing that their actions were a proportionate response to the factory’s work arming repressive states, including Israel.

The factory is a subsidiary of Israeli arms giant Elbit, which makes 85 percent of Israeli drones.

Arms components made at the factory in Kent, in the southeast of England, include sniper scopes and drone add-ons.

“This is not the first time that cases against activists have been dropped at Instro Precision,” the activists’ lawyer Lydia Dagostino said. “It begs the question – what on earth is going on inside this factory that the company doesn’t want to be the subject of scrutiny?”

The activists said the factory had only last month acknowledged making arms components used by Israel.

They have now added a number of these items to their online brochure.

The activists say that Elbit components have been used by Israel to help kill hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protesters – including children – at the Great March of Return protests since 2018.

Israeli snipers have deliberately targeted unarmed protesters in Gaza, including children, using high-tech scopes and targeting equipment, often killing or maiming them.

The activists’ lawyers had demanded disclosure from the factory relating to its involvement in weapons targeting systems and drone add-ons.

“It is not yet clear what meetings have taken place between Kent Police, [prosecutors], Instro Precision, Elbit Systems and the Israeli government,” said Susannah Mengesha, one of the activists.

Prosecutors dropped the charges “because somebody doesn’t want the full extent of information about the deadly weapons Instro is producing to become public,” she said.

Elbit is the second biggest arms company in Israel. Its drones were used in the 2014 Israeli war against the Gaza Strip, when more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including 550 children.

Instro Precision was contacted for comment.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.