TRIDENT PLOUGHSHARES 2000 REGROUP IN SCOTLAND
Second phase of direct action camp to nonviolently and publicly disarm Britain's nuclear arsenal, plus prosecution updates.
The Trident Ploughshares 2000 campaign continues in Great Britain, with activists now concluding the second quarterly action camp outside the gates of the Coulport, Scotland, nuclear weapons store.
Since the campaign's August kick-off, nonviolent actions against Britain's Trident nuclear force have proliferated. Currently, three Swedish ploughshares activists are in jail for attempting to disarm HMS Vengeance, the fourth British Trident submarine (see accompanying article), and seven other activists jailed in August have been released from prison. Like their American counterparts, the local Scottish courts have been unable to cope with the issues of international law and individual conscience.
Several trials in Helensburgh District Court and Dumbarton Sheriffs Court have all concluded in guilty verdicts. Angie Zelter, Jens Light, Ian Thompson, Krista Van Velzen, Katri Silvonen, Hanna Jarvinen, and Helen John - who had all been jailed by the end of August - were released after the court's admonishment, plus for John an order to pay compensation for a cut fence. Others charged with various minor offenses have been fined, and some cases have been continued into December and 1999.
Defendants have argued forcefully and passionately, alone and assisted by experts, for the legality of their affirmative actions at disarmament. Katri Silvonen summed up their justification when the prosecutor asked if she had been given authority to enter Faslane nuclear submarine base: "I was not given permission by the authorities in Faslane but I have been given that right by the previous War Crimes Tribunals."
Yet Justice of the Peace Stirling, who has heard many of the cases to date, declared that interesting as they are, he had no alternative but to disregard the arguments about international law. To do otherwise would mean that he would have to accept that the U.K. government was committing war crimes! He further hedged by saying that the case might indeed be worthy of a hearing in High Court.
Trident Ploughshares 2000 co-founder Angie Zelter's thorough and detailed self defense included an appeal to ancient Scottish common law, namely Adomnan's Law of the Innocents. Adomnan's Law, after the 7th century Abbot of Iona, forbids assaults on women and prescribes dreadful punishments for the murder of children, women and clerics in time of war. Zelter traced this humanitarian thread as it grew, demonstrating that "Nation States come and go - just look at the history of state formation and change in Europe in the last 100 years - but the necessity to protect ordinary people, the land and the environment from lasting damage and death is so important that over the centuries a whole body of law has evolved to this effect."
Arguing for her own acquittal, Zelter reflected the end of tolerance for narrow-minded courts expressed by many of the Trident Ploughshares 2000 abolitionists: "The prosecution have looked so narrowly at our actions and at the law that they have made a mockery of the whole legal system. To apply some bylaws and a minor criminal damage law to people who are attempting to prevent mass murder, criminal activities that are on a qualitatively much larger scale, and to continually refuse to address the bigger picture is either stupidity or duplicity but is certainly not justice and certainly not in the public interest."
A few days later, Zelter and Sylvia Boyes were convicted of forced entry and "clandestinely taking and using the property of another" last March, when along with two other women they conducted an uninterrupted Citizens Weapons Inspection at Coulport and then used a police boat docked there to motor 14 miles around the peninsula to the Faslane Base for further inspection. The judge heard testimony that police at Faslane were as surprised as the women that they had traveled so far undetected. The women were admonished, nothing more.
On October 18, a nuclear weapons convoy was again stopped in Scotland, this time near the Clyde Submarine Base by eight residents of the Faslane Peace Camp, who were arrested.
TP2000 ACTION CAMP
The action camp convened outside Coulport during the second week of November. Getting right to work, Peter Lanyon and Rupert Eris were arrested at the Faslane Base on Thursday, November12, and held overnight on charges of vandalism. In court, they pleaded not guilty and refused bail conditions, believing that to accept conditions would affirm that they may have committed an offense. Rupert Eris also told the court, "If you release me I will go back to the bases and do it again." The men claimed they were upholding international law and so are not guilty of any crime.
They will next appear in the District Court in Victoria Hall, Helensburgh on November 20.
On Friday, November 13, Angie Zelter, Krista Van Velzen, Katri Silvonen, Hanna Jarvinen, and Lotte Muurinen drove into the Faslane Base to continue disarming what they call "an illegal weapons system of mass-destruction." Their action affirmed the U.N. vote on a historic resolution from the New Agenda Coalition. Initiated by Sweden and Ireland, the resolution calls for step by step nuclear disarmament. It passed with widespread support and the notable abstentions of several NATO member states, against the fierce lobbying for support from the U.S., U.K. and France.
Muurinen was released that evening without being charged, but the other four women - all recently jailed, convicted and admonished for their earlier disarmament attempts at Faslane - were remanded to custody until Monday, November 16. The procurator fiscal (prosecutor) ordered the release of Silvonen and Jarvinen Monday morning. Zelter and Van Velzen face additional charges; Zelter for reckless driving and Van Velzen for possession of a weapon - the utility knife found in the car that she claimed as hers. They pled not guilty and were released pending trials in early 1999. The car the women drove onto the base was impounded, along with the TP2000 campaign's computer.
In Glasgow, six Trident Ploughshares disarmers, members of the Gareloch Horticulturalists affinity group, padlocked the main doors of the Ministry of Defense on Saturday morning, November 14. They displayed a banner reading "Closed Down! Department of War Crimes" but were not arrested. An noon, members of the ecumenical organization, the Iona Community, held a short service of worship at the North Gate of Faslane Naval Base. Following the service five members of the TP 2000 Adomnan affinity group chained themselves together, blockaded the open section of the gate and continued to sing. Morag Balfour, Dirk Grutzmacher, Jean Oliver, Alan Wilkie, and Maire-Colette Wilkie were arrested for breach of peace about an hour later when a truck arrived at the base, seeking entry. They were cited and released.
On Sunday, November 15, Sylvia Boyes was arrested as she cut through the fence at Faslane. Later, about 50 people gathered for a religious service conducted by leading Scottish churchmen. After the service, retired teacher and Scottish National Party activist Brian Quail began to batter on the security fence with a large hammer. He then lay down in the gateway and was lifted away by five officers. Boyes and Quail both refused bail conditions, and were remanded until trials on November 23 and 25.
At press time, about 20 arrests had been reported during this phase of the campaign.
For more information, contact Trident Ploughshares 2000, 42-46 Bethel St., Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1NR, England, UK, phone +44(0)1603-611953, email base office: firstname.lastname@example.org or camp: email@example.com Web: http://www.gn.apc.org/tp2000/
Based on the experience of the campaign in the local courts, it appears likely that those in jail at press time - Sylvia Boyes, Rupert Eris, Peter Lanyon, and Brian Quail - may be released soon, and also that others will follow them into jail. Individual and general letters of solidarity and support should be sent c/o Trident Ploughshares 2000, 42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1NR, UK.