Christian activists who tried to disarm warplanes bound for Saudi Arabia are in court today

They're facing charges of criminal damage after entering a BAE Systems factory in January.

A Methodist minister from Leeds and a Quaker anti-war activist are in court today after entering a BAE Systems factory in January trying to “disarm” Typhoon fighter jets bound for Saudi Arabia

Reverend Dan Woodhouse and activist Sam Walton face charges of criminal damage in Burnley magistrate’s court this morning after having tried to stop the delivery to Saudi Arabia of fighter planes from a factory in Warton, Lancashire.

The activists said in January that they were trying to prevent Saudi Arabia committing war crimes in Yemen. Reverend Woodhouse said:

“Stopping or even delaying Saudi Arabia having more planes with which to bomb Yemen would save innocent lives and prevent war crimes.”

Saudi Arabia has been accused by the UN and NGOs of committing war crimes whilst carrying out military operations against Yemen.

BAE’s Typhoon and Tornado jets produced at the factory in Lancashire are being used on these combat missions in Yemen and BAE is in negotiations currently to sell more fighter jets to the Saudi regime.

The direct action in January took place exactly 21 years after three women entered the same base to disarm a plane being sent to Indonesia to be used in the genocide in East Timor.

Speaking today, Reverend Woodhouse said: “The fighter jets being made in Warton are being used to destroy Yemen. The atrocities being committed against the people of Yemen are being done with the full complicity of Downing Street.” He added:

“The real crime here are the decisions of BAE Systems and the UK government’s to keep arming and supporting the brutal Saudi regime.”

Fellow peace activist Sam Walton said: “we took action on behalf of the people having their lives and homes destroyed by BAE fighter jets. We have no regrets, and would do the exact same thing again.” He added:

“Our consciences are clean, we acted to prevent crimes against humanity and will be using the trial to highlight BAE’s role in the devastation of Yemen. If the government refuses to take action to stop war crimes then ordinary people must do all we can.”

Since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen, the UK has sold £3.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including £2.6 billion worth of aircraft and £1bn of bombs and ammunition.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said of the Saudi campaign in Yemen: “Thousands have been killed by air strikes, and millions have been displaced as a result of the terrible war. BAE’s fighter jets have been central to the destruction.”

You can follow the progress of the three-day trial on the Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s (CAAT) Twitter.

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