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Re: Put the Foreign Office on trial !

Dear Mr Rai and everyone else

Is is not time that CASI has a clear policy on the campaigning tactics and
methods which we choose to support?  I had believed that CASI was an
organisation which supported peaceful and legal campaigning, with the
possible addition of radical methods of protest, such as sit downs and the
like.  I was not aware that CASI supported the causing of criminal damage
to Her Majesty's buildings.

I am sure that there are many people who do not feel that sanctions
against Iraq are the most effective way of undermining Saddam Hussein's
attacks on his own people because of the way sanctions affect the people
of Iraq, but who do not agree with people breaking the law and damaging a
government building in our capital city, containing civil servants who,
overall, do much to promote human rights around the world.

As a citizen, I object to people causing disgraceful acts of vandalism to
buildings which are at the heart of the democracy in which we live.  As a
law student, I object to people deciding that they can break the law
whenever they choose.  And I object to the cost of repairing the damage
being met by the taxpayer from money which could be better spent on
schools and hospitals rather than those who caused the damage.  I cannot
see how these actions bring any benefit to the cause of the Iraqi people.
The most important factor in policy towards Iraq is the media and public
opinion.  Most people in this country think that crime does nothing but
mar the cause of the person committing them.  Of course injustice makes us
angry, but should it really stop us participating in the democratic
process through lawful means?

It is nonsense to say that the individuals concerned risk six months in
prison.  Unless they have committed other crimes we don't know about, they
are likely to be fined or given a community service order and told to pay
compensation for the damage they have caused.  Even if they are jailed, it
will be for a very short period.  So why exactly do they need our support
protesting outside a court where a stipendiary magistrate will be seeking
to uphold the rule of law on which our democracy depends?

Doubtless those who are on trial will tell us that it is their rights
which are being violated and it is they who are being oppressed.  Yet it
is they who benefit from the democracy which our system, as represented in
its international form by the Foreign Office, upholds.  They have not been
tortured.  They are not facing a firing squad.  They have not had
electrodes attached to their genitals or had their eyes viciously cut out.
No.  Thank God they are facing a fair trial in open court, probably
followed by a small fine, instead.  Thank God they are not trying to
exercise their right to any form of protest in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

As much as I agree that sanctions on Iraq are misguided and wrong, I do
think we need to keep some sense of the need to act within the law.
People who vanadlise public property may have their heart in the right
place, but should we really be going to Bow Street to cheer them on as
heroes for committing a crime against our democracy?  If you were the
judge hearing the case, what justification could you find for acquitting
them?  Unlike the Plowshares case, this is not a prevention of a crime
against international law.  It is an act of protest which goes beyond what
is acceptable in a free society.  The judge cannot but do his duty and
convict these people.


Christ's College
St. Andrew's Street
Tel: 01223 767817

On Fri, 12 Mar 1999, Milan Rai wrote:

> This coming Monday (March 15th) voices in the wilderness members Gabriel 
Carlyle and Andrea Needham will be appearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court
in London (nearest tube: Covent Garden) charged with criminal damage to the 
British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The trial will take place at 2pm.
> On December 17th, as the bombs rained down on Iraq, the pair through buckets
 of red paint at the FO wall where they also wrote the messages "Stop the 
killing" and "Lift the Sanctions". The FO is claiming 2178 worth of damages.
If convicted the pair could face a 6 month prison sentence.

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