A judge dismissed charges against protesters at an arms fair in east London who felt they were attempting to stop a "greater crime".
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) appealed against the acquittal of eight activists who demonstrated against the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) event at the ExCel centre in London's Docklands in 2015. The protesters, accused of wilful obstruction of the highway after attempting to block entrance into the annual arms fair, believed they were preventing the sale of weapons that would abuse human rights in countries such as Yemen and Bahrain.
District Judge Angus Hamilton, at Stratford Magistrates Court, threw out the charges against Isa Al-Aali, Angela Ditchfield, Lisa Butler, Thomas Franklin, Javier Gárate Neidhardt, Susannah Mengesha, Luis Tinoco Torrejon and Bram Vranken. The ruling stated there was "compelling evidence" that DSEI arms sales were being used for repression and human rights abuse, with Hamilton viewing the action taken by defendants as "relatively minimal without being completely ineffective".
Hamilton has now rejected the CPS' appeal to have the acquittals overturned on the basis their argument was "frivolous" and "misconceived". He added: "The CPS application repeatedly significantly misrepresents the contents of the judgement delivered at the end of the case and therefore seeks to challenge the decisions reached on wholly erroneous bases.
"The very least the CPS should do is read the judgement fully and, if appropriate, frame their application based on what was actually decided rather than what they seem to believe was decided."
In a joint public statement the defendants' campaign said: "Win or lose, we have throughout remained wholeheartedly at peace with our actions to try and shut down the fair. We choose to remain on the side of history that rejects the facilitation of torture and mass indiscriminate killing for corporate profit. As ever, our only regret is that we didn't stop the arms fair. As fresh evidence continues to emerge of the suffering caused by arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and other brutal regimes, the UK government's position grows increasingly untenable."
Raj Chada, partner and head of protest team at Hodge Jones & Allen, which represented some of the protesters, said: "From shambles to farce, the CPS has received a slap in the face in their efforts to appeal this decision. It should abandon its application and concentrate on the real wrong-doing at DSEI – weapons that are being used to commit heinous crimes throughout the world."
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: "The case should never have gone to court in the first place. The arms trade is an illegitimate and immoral trade, and governments like the UK, and events like DSEI, are at the heart of it."
A spokesperson for DSEI told IBTimes UK: "All our exhibitors are contractually bound to ensure that they exhibit at DSEI in a manner which is compliant with all relevant arms control legislation. We are explicitly clear that any exhibitors or individuals found to be in breach of compliance regulations at DSEI will be immediately ejected."
This article has been amended to state it was at Stratford magistrates court and to remove incorrect mention of "lack of" compelling evidence.