A couple of news items that are not covered by corporate news sources: the first UK Uncut Fortnum and Mason trial and the ConDem government refusing open discussion of Babar Ahmed.
Today my trial for a two hour UKuncut sit-in at Fortnum & Mason ended far faster than anyone estimated. The trial was scheduled to end on the November 30th, however a thin prosecution case was over in just 2 and half days.
Among the officers taking the stand was Inspector Clark – the chief police officer at the scene whom had been at the sit-in in Fortnum and Mason for the duration. She confirmed her view that we were all “sensible and well behaved”.
Clark was the officer filmed telling protesters that they would not be arrested before the systematic arrest of everyone taking part in the sit-in.
What became painfully apparent today was the arbitrary nature of the arrests on March 26th.
In his evidence Chief Inspector Dean admitted that he was under instruction to use his discretion “to let peaceful protesters go”, however decided to ‘mass arrest’ 145 people on site.
This blanket arrest has caused great stress and worry not just for the arrestees but for many family members and friends. Most arrestees where further held in solitary for 24 hours and many were denied access to a lawyer. 13 of my friends from Birmingham were in the store with me and it was particularly hard on some.
Now that senior police officer admit the arrestees where “sensible and well behaved”, it should be asked what the aim of the major police operation on March 26th was.
Under increasing scrutiny the operation looks increasing aimed stifling political protesters and perhaps even an intelligence gathering exercise.
The prosecution have now finished giving their evidence and ultimately their argument is that we took part in a protest. They are not attributing any ‘act’ to the defendants except for ‘not withdrawing’.
We don’t think we have a “case to answer” and so after making the point that this does not amount to any crime, have closed our case too.
The Judge has called recess until Wednesday; when the court will reconvene and we expect closing statements from both the prosecution and the defence for a verdict is reached.
Thanks for all the solidarity we have received so far. All the defendants in the current case want to express their solidarity to everyone fighting against cuts and all facing trial for protesting. Good luck everyone standing up and taking action in coming weeks on both the 23rd of November to defend education and on 30th of November in the largest strike in a generation.
In parliament last August, the prime minister declared that: “One of the points of the new e-petitions website is to make sure that if a certain level of signatures is reached, the matter will be debated in the house, whether we like it or not. That is an important way of empowering people.” The level required is 100,000. The e-petition asking for a parliamentary debate on the question of a trial for Babar Ahmed in this country, where his alleged offence took place, rather than extraditing him to the US, has 140,000 signatures (Is it justice to lock up Babar Ahmed so long without trial?, 6 November). Now the backbench business committee has decided that there will be no debate, but instead the question can be added on to a pre-existing debate in Westminster Hall on 24 November. Not surprisingly, Babar Ahmed’s family has not accepted the Westminster Hall offer. The 140,000 individual signatories to the Ahmed family’s petition are being disempowered by this cavalier decision by a committee few of them have ever heard of, and which contradicts David Cameron’s public promise. A parliamentary debate should be scheduled as soon as possible.
Geoffrey Bindman QC