The trial of the Raytheon Nine got underway after a number of delays and postponements on Tuesday at Laganside Court in Belfast.
As expected, the first day was taken up with legal arguments about the nature of the defence and witnesses.
The nine anti-war protesters, including campaigning journalist Eamonn McCann, occupied and shut down the Derry offices of Raytheon, the fifth biggest arms manufacturer in the world, on Wednesday 9 August 2006.
The defendants don’t deny that they occupied Raytheon or that they destroyed their computer system, but say that they had a legal, moral and political duty to do so. Their intention was to stop – or at least delay – war crimes being carried out by the Israeli army in Lebanon, in which Raytheon equipment was used.
The action was part of a wider protest at Raytheon’s complicity in the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The judge accepted defence arguments that he should not rule the defence out but allow it to be argued. Having heard the evidence, he will decide how to instruct the jury on what they can, and cannot, take into account in reaching their verdict.
The day started with about 50 people congregating outside the Courthouse. They carried placards with photographs of the victims of the Qana Massacre. An Israeli air-strike during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon killed 28 men, women and children on 30 July 2006.
A carload of Irish Anti War Movement activists travelled from Dublin and campaigners felt good to see so many turn up to show their solidarity when the “official” protest of the day before had been cancelled at such short notice when the start of the trial was delayed.
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A major protest is planned at the court for the morning of Tuesday 27 May. There will be buses from Derry and Dublin. For info on the Derry bus phone 07521 527 208 or 07780 632 610. For info on the Dublin bus phone 00 353 87 2886 646
For background read Eamonn MacCann's article » There’s no profit in peace for Raytheon