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"UK prostituting human rights for weapons," say freed fighter-jet 'saboteurs'

The men want to stop arms sales for use in Yemen [Twitter]

Date of publication: 26 October, 2017

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Two men were found not guilty of criminal damage on Thursday after they broke into a BAE base to sabotage a fighter jet bound for Yemen.
Two anti-war campaigners who attempted to sabotage a fighter jet due for export to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen's conflict have been found not guilty of causing criminal damage.

Sam Walton and Rev Daniel Woodhouse, a Christian minister, said their acquittal at Burnley Magistrates Court was a "vindication" of their protest.

"Today's verdict is a condemnation of BAE Systems and UK arms export policy," Sam Walton told The New Arab.

"I call on anyone who is heartened by this case to celebrate by criticising and protesting against Saudi Arabia."

District Judge James Clarke described the two men in his verdict as "impressive and eloquent men who held strong views about what they were doing and what they wanted to achieve".

"I heard about their beliefs regarding the events in Yemen, that they include the death of civilians and the destruction of civilian property, and the basis for their belief that this amounted to war crimes," Judge Clarke said.

As part of their defence, Walton and Woodhouse said they wanted to "save innocent lives and prevent war crimes" by disarming the Eurofighter Typhoon warplane.

The two men said they believed the fighter jet would be used by Saudi Arabia to target Yemeni civilians in the country's on-going civil war.

The judge ruled in their favour under section 5 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971, allowing the sabotage of other people's property if it's believed it will prevent harm to others.

They were originally arrested and charged with criminal damage after they broke into the BAE Systems site at Warton, Lancashire, on 29 January.

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition began fighting in Yemen in March 2015. A disproportionately large number of those killed are children, the World Health Organisation reported.

As a direct result of the civil war, the United Nations has listed Yemen as the world's number one humanitarian crisis. Seven million Yemenis are reportedly on the brink of famine and cholera has caused more than 2,000 deaths.

Despite this ever-worsening crisis, the UK has continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, with the UK's defence secretary calling on Parliament for even more sales.

"We need to do everything possible to encourage Saudi Arabia towards batch two and I believe they will commit toward batch two and we continue to work away on the timing," Michael Fallon told Parliament's Defence Committee on Wednesday

The UK has licensed £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since fighting began in 2015, £2.6 billion of which was related to war planes.

Speaking after his acquittal on Thursday, Walton told The New Arab that the defence secretary's comments had been "pathetic".

" What this judgement shows is that it's completely pathetic [Fallon] is willing to prostitute judicial concerns of human rights abuses in order to sell more weapons.

"I call on anyone who is heartened by this case to celebrate by criticising and protesting against Saudi Arabia."

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