Support Derry Anti War Protesters (The Raytheon 9)

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The British authorities in Northern Ireland are mounting a very serious attack on the liberty and rights of anti-war protestors. Nine activists who took part in an occupation of the American arms corporation Raytheon's offices in Derry have been charged with aggravated burglary and unlawful assembly. The bail terms imposed on them effectively remove their right to take part in political activity.

Raytheon is the fifth biggest arms manufacturer in the world. It manufactured the 100 GBU-28 bunker buster bombs urgently flown by the United States to Israel at the height of the destruction of Lebanon by the Israel Defence Force. Among the many services Raytheon has performed for Israel is supplying electronic equipment for the apartheid wall being built on Palestinian land. The National Lawyers Guild of the US has accused Raytheon of being 'implicated in the commission of war crime'.

On 9 August 2006 the Derry Anti-War Coalition organized a non-violent occupation of Raytheon's plant in the Ulster Science and Technology Park. This followed direct action that has been mounted by anti-war protestors against US military planes at Shannon airport in the South of Ireland and Prestwick airport near Glasgow. The Derry protestors decommissioned computer equipment used by Raytheon to produce software for its weapons systems.

Nine of them were arrested by the police, among them Eamonn McCann, well-known as a civil rights activist and campaigning journalist. They have been charged with aggravated burglary and unlawful assembly. These are very serious offences that could mean the accused could be denied the right to trial by jury under British security legislation prevailing in the north of Ireland.

The protestors' civil liberties are further threatened by the terms under which they have been released on bail. They are forbidden to communicate with each other or with anyone working for Raytheon and may not take part in any public or private anti-war meeting. These restrictions bear comparison with those imposed by striking British miners brought before courts during the 1984-5 strike.

It is particularly ironic that this attack on the right to protest should be taking place under the authority of Peter Hain, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Hain made his political reputation in the early 1970s as an anti-apartheid activist who organized direct action against tours by the South African rugby and cricket teams. As a leading figure on the Labour left, he continued to endorse direct action, writing in 1983: 'the more direct action there is against nuclear weapons in Britain, the greater the freedom a Labour government will have to get rid of them.'

The Raytheon Nine are facing imprisonment for staying true to the principles Hain has abandoned. Like peace campaigners elsewhere in Ireland and in the rest of the world, they took non-violent direct action. Their trial is a threat to the global anti-war movement. At a time when the clouds of war are darkening and spreading over the Middle East, the right to protest must be defended. We demand that all charges against the Raytheon Nine be dropped immediately.