Socialist Worker

Trial begins in crucial Gaza case

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2198

The trial of Martin Askew, which began this Monday, is a crucial case in the campaign for justice for the Gaza protesters.

Martin was one of 119 people arrested in relation to the demonstrations against Israel’s attacks on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

He appeared at Isleworth Crown Court and is accused of violent disorder at the demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy on 3 and 10 January last year.

If found guilty he faces up to five years in prison—and the case could set a precedent.

Martin was arrested in May last year.

On the first day of the trial, Julia Walker, prosecuting, said, “This case is not about the right to protest in a peaceful manner, but about the use of violence.”

The prosecution and the judge are well aware of the attention that has been drawn to the trials.

They decided to ask the jury, “have you or anyone in your household attended a demonstration against the Israeli government in December 2008 or January 2009?”

The police’s case against Martin will rely heavily on police video evidence and photographs.

All the witnesses they will call are serving police officers.

Martin’s defence barrister Lauren Soertsz said she was “anxious that witnesses do not use opinions in their evidence. Officers may use certain language and encourage a conclusion from the jury.”

The court was shown several video excerpts and stills from police evidence of the day.

The footage shows police “jabbing” Martin in the face with the end of a long shield over a row of barriers.

But the prosection told the jury, “Think about the defendant’s actions before he was hit.

“Police had to protect Palace Green, and in my faithful submission had no choice but to act in this way.”

On the first day of the trial prosecution called their first witness, police sergeant Evans. He is an “evidence gatherer” for the Metropolitan police.

His role on 3 January was to be accompanied by a photographer and describe, into a voice recorder, the actions of demonstrators. The transcripts were turned into accounts of the day.

He was posted to the Israeli embassy at 3pm, after first making estimates of the crowd size as the march gathered at London’s Embankment.

He said that at 4.37pm, “the atmosphere changed, and missiles were thrown by the crowd at police.”

At 4.50pm he claims to see the defendant “come to the front of the crowd. He appeared angry. His face was screwed up with anger.”

The officer was cross examined on Tuesday.

The defence argued that Evans had misidentified Martin Askew. The defence said, “I suggest you are wrong about this evidence. You are wrong when you say the defendant threw punches at police lines.”

Evans replied, “I am not.”

For updates go to www.socialistworker.co.uk


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News
Tue 20 Apr 2010, 18:02 BST
Issue No. 2198
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