UAV Tactical Systems Palestine case: judge throws out prosecution

  • Post last modified:February 20, 2024
  • Reading time:5 mins read

A judge has thrown out the case against seven Palestine Action activists. It was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after the group targeted UAV Tactical System’s factory supplying Israel. The case shows cops’ drastically overreaching in their powers to protect the corporate war machine.

Palestine Action: case dismissed over UAV Tactical Systems

District judge Grace Leong found seven activists not guilty of breaching a Section 14 notice during Palestine Action’s ‘siege’ on Leicester’s Elbit weapons factory, UAV Tactical Systems.

The case was thrown out after half time submissions on the basis there was no legal certainty of the Section 14 conditions, no evidence the defendants knew or ought to have known about the notice, and that they weren’t arrested during a public assembly.

It was over Palestine Action’s “siege” against UAV Tactical Systems. As the group wrote at the time, in May 2023:

Hundreds have descended on Meridian Business Park in Leicester to force Elbit’s factory to shut down. The crowds began arriving this afternoon, and have been growing in number through the day. With banners, chants, flags, and rousing speeches delivered so far, the mass of people were welcomed later by an empowering performance by rapper and activist Lowkey, along with award winning actor and playwright Tayo Aluko, Palestinian Dabke, poetry, and more.

The Siege against Leicester’s Elbit-owned UAV Tactical Systems (‘U-TacS’), is a mass action which involves huge numbers willing to remain at the site, using themselves to disrupt the flow of business. Palestine Action refuse to leave until Elbit does.

There is a heavy police presence on the ground, with riot vans deployed and a metal wall erected around the factory, but actionists, undeterred, continue to arrive on the scene. Police have been conducting raids and arrests at random – smashing their way into parked cars to ‘search’ them.

Ahead of the action, the company has also reinforced its site with extra fencing, cameras, and shuttered their windows. Despite this, a woodland camp was built by actionists days before the siege began and initially went unnoticed for 12 hours — even with Elbit’s ‘state-of-the-art’ surveillance. Others have now decamped on the road leading to the factory, pledging to stay there for as long as they can.

Hundreds out against the war machine

The seven activists were amongst 26 people who were rounded up and arrested on the second day of Palestine Action’s declared siege on the factory. The activists were camping in the woods adjacent to the factory when they were awoken by police and arrested immediately. By the third day of the mass action, 33 were arrested in total. All of those arrested were bailed to not return to the factory.

The section 14 notice included conditions preventing people from erecting any structure, including tents. This lead to many people sleeping without shelter in sleeping bags and blankets, many of which were supplied by the local community. Despite the police attempt to diminish numbers at the siege, hundreds continued to support the mass action.

UAV Tactical Systems is owned by Israel’s largest weapons firm, Elbit Systems. The factory regularly sends drones and drone technologies to Israel, where Elbit’s drone products brutally enforce the military occupation of Palestine.

UAV Tactical Systems’ flagship drone, the Watchkeeper, has been used by the British military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the English Channel – but is itself modelled on the notorious and deadly Hermes drone, after the latter was ‘battle-tested’ on Palestinians.

Police “acting to protect” UAV Tactical Systems

Elbit, Israel’s largest weapons company, supplies 85% of Israel’s drones, and 85% of its land based military equipment. Its products, including the Hermes, have been linked to documented atrocities by the Israeli state.

Palestine Action has targeted UAV Tactical Systems before – and a judge also acquitted the activists in that case.

A Palestine Action spokesperson said:

This victory demonstrates what we knew all along, the police acted to protect the Israeli weapons trade and tried whatever they could to deter us. They failed and the campaign to shut Elbit down continues to go from strength to strength. Whilst a genocide in Gaza is underway, it’s more important than ever to take action against Elbit’s lethal operations on our doorstep.

Featured image via Martin Pope – Palestine Action

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