Three More Cheers for the Jury System!
It took nearly three-and-a-half years for the case of the Pitstop Ploughshares
to reach a jury. It took the jury less than three-and-a-half hours to find the
five activists not guilty of criminal damage to a US Navy plane at Shannon Airport
in western Ireland in February 2003.
Having been instructed not to respond audibly to the verdict, the crowd in
the courtroom sobbed quietly with joy and relief as the verdicts were read out
for all five defendants earlier today (25 July).
The two-week trial in the Dublin Circuit Court was the third time around for
Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon, Damien Moran and Ciaron O'Reilly,
as Counterpunch readers may recall. The first trial in March 2005 and the second
trial last November both ended in mistrials because the judges admitted they
could be perceived as biased against the accused. This trial was the first time
a jury was allowed by Judge Miriam Reynolds to hear it argued fully
that the 'disarmament' of the navy C40 transport was done with 'lawful excuse'.
In the the two trials of Mary Kelly for earlier damage to the same plane the
judge ruled out the 'lawful excuse' defence.
The defence under Ireland's criminal-damage statute allows damage to property
if it's done in the 'honest belief' that so doing will protect lives and/or
property, and if that belief is reasonable in the circumstances as the accused
perceived them to be. Judge Reynolds said only the reasonableness of the belief,
not its honesty, was at issue in the case, and said the question was so tied
up with the facts of the case that it wouldn't be appropriate for her to prohibit
the jury from considering it.
The trial heard from activist and Counterpuncher Kathy Kelly, who met the five
shortly before their action and told them about the horrors inflicted on Iraq
by sanctions and bombing prior to February 2003. It also heard from ex-Royal
Air Force logistics expert Geoffrey Oxley that he couldn't rule out the possibility
ofdamage to a transport plane having a knock-on effect that could result in
lives saved in Iraq.
An international-law expert also testified as to the illegality of the US war.
In effect, the jury agreed that to damage an American military plane in these
circumstances couldn't be considered a crime.
Whatever about the technical reasons for the verdict, its quickness and unanimity
sends a message to the Irish government about its policy of facilitating the
US military at Irish airports, especially Shannon. More than 300,000 troops
have passed through there in the last year alone.
The jury was applauded out of the courtroom, prompting the judge to return
from her chambers to chastise spectators.
The five read a statement outside the courtroom that highlighted the political
importance of the verdict: "The jury is the conscience of the community,
chosen randomly from Irish society. The conscience of the community has spoken.
The government has no popular mandate in providing the civilian Shannon Airport
to service the US war machine in its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.
"In 1996 in Liverpool a jury acquittal of the four 'ploughshares' women
contributed to the end of arms exports to the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia
and the independence of East Timor.
"The decision of this jury should be a message to London, Washington DC
and the Dail [Irish parliament] that Ireland wants no part in waging war on
the people of Iraq. Refuelling of US warplanes at Shannon Airport should cease
As a crowd of reporters and photographers descended upon the five innocent
activists outside Dublin's Four Courts, Ciaron O'Reilly asked the assembled
media: "Where have you been for the last three-and-a-half years?"
It's a question not just about the lack of coverage of their action and trials--this
one was barely mentioned in the Irish media--but about the media's ignorance
of the ongoing atrocities of war and occupation in Iraq.
Harry Browne is a media lecturer at Dublin Institute of
Technology and writes for Village magazine.
NOT GUILTY !!!
Peace On Trial
Thanks for your support, friendship and solidarity.
Let's continue our anti-war resistence at Shannon and beyond!
Reports at www.indymedia.ie
Coverage of Previous Trials
'05 Trial Collapses - Judge MacDonagh attended Bush Inauguration
'05 Trial Collapses on Day Six
Pit Stop Ploughshares outside the Four Courts with Kathy
Kelly and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate