Campaigners arrested 'for boarding US plane'

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The Independent Online

Seven anti-war protesters were arrested today after campaigners boarded a plane at a British airport to search for US weapons being transported to Israel.

Two men and a woman were in custody after getting on what's understood to be a military plane at Prestwick Airport, Ayrshire, in the early hours.

Police confirmed a further four people - two men and two women - were also arrested at the airport at around 3.30am.

Anti-nuclear campaign group Trident Ploughshares said its activists had boarded a US plane while carrying out an investigation into the British government's involvement in the transport of arms to Israel.

The group named the members involved in this morning's action as Marcus Armstrong, 46, from Milton Keynes, Chris Bluemel, 35, from Southampton, and Angie Zelter, 55, from Norfolk.

Sarah Lasenby, 68, from Oxford, Douglas Shaw, 56, and Jean Oliver, 48, both from Biggar, South Lanarkshire, and Matt Bury, 50, from Somerset, also took part in the investigation, it said.

They were expected to appear in court tomorrow.

Four people were arrested at the airport yesterday after breaking through security fencing and running onto the main runway.

It follows protests last weekend when two flights carrying hazardous material were diverted to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the body responsible for policing the transit of the flights through civilian airports, said yesterday that it had given permission for the two US flights to stop at Prestwick last weekend but no others.

"We have not issued permission for the carriage of any dangerous cargo to Israel," a spokesman said.

David Mackenzie, of Trident Ploughshares, said that protesters had accessed the plane by cutting through a perimeter fence at the airport.

They found the military area and a US plane with its door open.

One protester was sitting in the pilot's seat when police arrived.

Mr Mackenzie said: "There was an engineer there and they entered into a conversation with him.

"They were on the plane for around half an hour. Marcus said he was sitting in the pilot's seat when the police arrived."

No weapons were found by the group, who said the plane appeared to be carrying personnel only. Its destination was not known.

Mr Mackenzie said: "We've been told that Prestwick is no longer being used by the US military to transport hazardous materials, but we suspect that this is not true."

He added: "Unless citizens take it into their own hands to find out what's going on then no one will really know."

Strathclyde Police said no damage had been done during what the force described as a peaceful protest.

The use of Prestwick Airport by weapons flights has also been condemned by politicians and members of the Lebanese community living in Scotland.

A series of possible legal actions against the Government's involvement in Israel's Middle East offensive were unveiled by campaigners on Wednesday.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said previously that US military planes en route to the conflict zone could land at UK airfields "as long as the proper procedures are followed".

A spokesman for Prestwick Airport said: "Two separate incidents occurred early this morning which resulted in a total of seven people being arrested.

"Glasgow Prestwick Airport is investigating the incidents, as are the authorities, and additional security resources have been in place since we became aware of a similar incident on Sunday morning which led to four arrests.

"We are satisfied that our security measures are working effectively as these people were apprehended very quickly.

"Aviation security is tighter than that of most other industries and security at Glasgow Prestwick Airport is consistent with the measures in place at other major airports in the UK."