pounds 1.5m Hawk attack women freed

Four women walked free from Liverpool Crown Court yesterday after a jury found them not guilty of criminal charges despite their admission that they did more than pounds 1.5m worth of damage to a Hawk warplane.

The jubilant women had admitted sabotaging the recently built multi-purpose Hawk last January at the British Aerospace plant at Warton, near Preston, for despatch to the Indonesian airforce as part of a series of multi- million pound arms deals with the regime of General Suharto. But the jury accepted the argument of Angie Zelter, 45, Joanna Wilson, 33, Lotta Kronlid, 28, and Andrea Needham, 30 - going under the name the Ploughshare Four - that their action was reasonable under the Genocide Act.

The jury of seven men and five women took just over five hours to reach their verdicts. During the seven-day trial the court heard Wilson, Needham and Kronlid cut through the seven-mile perimeter fence at the BAe plant in the early hours of January 29 this year.

They broke into hangar 358 and used hammers to damage the plane in 25 places. All four claimed their actions were justified because the Hawk was destined for Indonesia, where it would be used against the civilians of East Timor.

Only Wilson, a former Merseyside councillor, was represented by a barristerThe women claimed they had lawful excuse to disarm the Hawk because they were using reasonable force to prevent a crime. During the trial a 15-minute video which the three women left in the cockpit of the damaged plane was shown to the jury. In it, the women explained their motivation.

They said they had good reason to fear that British built warplanes were to be used as part of Indonesia's genocide of the people of East Timor.

Amnesty International has estimated that some 200,000 Timorese out of a total population of 600,000 have died under Indonesian rule in the past two decades, a rule which has been winked at by western powers.

Britain, the United States, Germany and other suppliers of arms to General Suharto, who seized power in 1965, have traded uninterruptedly with Indonesia despite the fact that a number of British, Australian and other foreign journalists were killed as they reported the Indonesian invasion of 1975.

The court in Liverpool was told of a report in the Independent on Sunday in November of last year written by this correspondent from Dili, the capital of East Timor, which told of two Hawks flying low over the city in a bid to intimidate its inhabitants and halt protests against the occupation.

The four women successfully argued that they had exhausted all other means of halting British action in support of Indonesia's act of genocide before they undertook their action at Warton which they themselves announced to the factory security staff and responsibility for which they freely and publicly embraced.

In her closing speech, Mrs Baird said what the four did was not a publicity stunt, as claimed by the prosecution, but an act of the last resort by women of principle.

David Pickup, prosecuting, said the women's "genuine and sincere" beliefs were irrelevant to the issues in the case.

In a statement after the verdict BAe said its arms deals with Indonesia had been contracted in conformity with guidelines laid down by the Government: "The company confirms that it operates in accordance with export licences granted by HM Government. In addition, BAe has no evidence that Hawk aircraft are being used in a manner contrary to assurances provided by the Indonesian government to the British government."

The judgment, which will have repercussions in international jurisprudence and diplomacy, comes at a particularly delicate time for General Suharto who is facing large scale rioting in his capital, Jakarta, after his forces attacked the opposition headquarters and its leader Megawati Sukarnoputra, daughter of the country's founding father, President Sukarno, who led the anti-colonialist struggle in what had been the Dutch East Indies after the Second World War.

Figure of hate, page 9

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas