* Maya Evans, 25, convicted for reading out names of 97 British soldiers
killed in Iraq at unauthorised protest.
* Douglas Barker, 72, threatened with jail for withholding part of
his tax payment in protest at the Iraq conflict.
* Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a 37-year-old RAF medical officer, facing
court-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq
In three different British courtrooms yesterday, three ordinary people
stood accused of three very different crimes, but all based simply on their
opposition to the war in Iraq.
In the first case of its kind, a woman received a criminal conviction for standing
outside Downing Street and reading aloud the names of the 97 British soldiers
who have died in the Iraq conflict. At the same time as Maya Evans, 25, appeared
in court yesterday to become the first person to be found guilty under the legislation
designed to create an exclusion zone around Parliament Square, Douglas Barker,
72, a retired businessman from Wiltshire, was told by a magistrate that he faces
jail for withholding part of his income tax on his investments, also in protest
In a third courtroom in Aldershot, a military judge heard that Flight Lieutenant
Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, an RAF medical officer based in Scotland, faced a
court martial for refusing to serve in Iraq on the basis that the war was illegal.
After her hearing, Ms Evans, a part-time vegan chef from Hastings, described
her conviction as an assault on her right to freedom of expression. She said:
" I just think it's a shame you can't voice your freedom of speech in this
country any more and it is illegal to hold a remembrance ceremony for the dead."
Earlier, she had told Bow Street magistrates: "I didn't want to be arrested
but, as far as I was concerned, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong standing
there on a drizzly Tuesday morning with a colleague reading names of people
who had died in a war. I don't think it's a criminal offence and I don't think
I should have been arrested for it."
After a three-hour hearing, she was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of
the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005; she was given a conditional
discharge and ordered to pay £100 costs. The law, which came into power
in April, makes it illegal to hold an unauthorised protest within 1km of Parliament
Square. It was introduced partly to get rid of a long-term and noisy peace protester,
Brian Haw, whose one-man vigil outside the gates of the Palace of Westminster
was considered a nuisance.
Ms Evans was arrested, along with follow demonstrator, Milan Rai, in October
as they stood next to the Cenotaph, close to the gated entrance to Downing Street.
Mr Rai, 40, a writer, was reading out the names of dead Iraqi civilians. The
pair had been intending to ring a bell for each of the names read out. Mr Rai,
who had spoken to the police in advance about his protest, was not charged.
In Chippenham, magistrates were told that Mr Barker was refusing to pay £1,142.58,
which amounted to 10 per cent of the income tax he was due to pay for the second
half of this year. Instead, he had put the money to one side, intending to give
it to a charity supporting children in Iraq, and had sent a note to the Inland
Revenue to explain.
Mr Barker, of Purton, Wiltshire, told the magistrates: "I estimated that
10 per cent goes on military expenditure and I came to the conclusion that by
paying this I was violating my conscience because I felt it would have been
used illegally to kill people in a sovereign state."
He said he would only pay if he got a promise the money would not be used for
military purposes, adding he believed the Government had used illegal weapons
against Iraqi civilians since the start of the war. His comments were greeted
with applause from a group of about 20 anti-war protesters in the public gallery.
Magistrates imposed a liability order, which means he has to pay the outstanding
amount or bailiffs will become involved. Hilary Light, the chairwoman of the
bench, said: "Whatever this court may feel, our jurisdiction is laid down
and we can't say where money can go to. We are therefore going to make the liability
order.'' No time limit was given.
Mr Barker, who helps run his son's organic farm, said afterwards that he would
probably send the money to a government department that did not have any dealings
with military expenditure, such as the NHS. "I don't think they will go
so far as to send me to prison, they will either accept the money that way or
just send the bailiffs round.''
Mr Barker, who did his National Service in the RAF, formerly ran a travel company,
which he sold in the late 1980s. He said he was a lifelong socialist who had
supported Tony Blair when he was first elected, adding: "I was very unhappy
about the war when it began, but I might have given him the benefit of the doubt
if things had gone well. But I think it's been a complete fiasco.''
At a hearing in Aldershot, Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith was told that he faces
a two-day court martial for refusing to serve in Iraq.
Flt Lt Kendall-Smith, a unit medical officer based at RAF Kinloss, Morayshire,
Scotland, had already completed two tours of Iraq. However, after studying the
legal position, including the advice of Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General,
he concluded the war was unlawful and he should not return.
David Perry, for the prosecution, said there were two questions relevant in
the case. Firstly, was it lawful to ask Flt Lt Kendall-Smith to return to Iraq?
Secondly, were each of the four charges he faced relevant to the order telling
him to go back.
His lawyer, Philip Sapsford, did not dispute his client failed to stay for
a training course, helmet-fitting, an employment briefing and initial risk training
exercise. But, Mr Sapsford argued the officer did not break English law. "The
crucial question is whether to go to Iraq and the war itself is in fact unlawful
in international law," he said. "I ask this question because UN resolutions
do not form part of English law."
Flt Lt Kendall-Smith faces five charges of disobeying lawful orders under the
RAF Act 1955. The court martial will begin on 15 March.