Thursday, 22 October 2009

Aldermaston five sought to halt “nuclear war crimes preparations”

Five peace activists who were among 33 people arrested for blocking access to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston during last October's Aldermaston Big Blockade claimed during their trial at Reading Magistrates’ Court this week (21-22 October) that they acted to stop preparations for war crimes involving nuclear weapons that they suspected were taking place at the Berkshire site in southern England.

AWE Aldermaston is used for research, maintenance and development of nuclear warheads for both the UK’s own Trident missile system and the US nuclear weapons programme, the latter as part of the bilateral 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement.

Barbara Dowling, from Glasgow, Jean Oliver, from Lanarkshire, David Polden, from London, Emma Sangster, also from London (all self-represented) and Renate Zauner (represented by Prof. Nicholas Grief) were accused of wilfully obstructing the highway without lawful authority or reasonable excuse on 27 October 2008, the day of the Aldermaston Big Blockade, which took place during the annual UN Disarmament Week. This peaceful mass action was called by nonviolent direct action campaign Trident Ploughshares and was supported by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp(aign) and others.

Barbara Dowling changed her plea to guilty on the first day of trial and, after making an emotional speech in mitigation, was handed an 18-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 in costs by District Judge Peter Crabtree.

Judgment as regards the remaining four defendants, all of whom were pleading not guilty, will be passed on
Thursday 12 November, at 2pm at the same court.

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