A shocking piece of news in today's Independent (UK). Two civilians and a soldier have been accused of crimes and tried in court. This would not be shocking news were it not that the 'crimes' that they are accused of were really acts of defiance against the war.
- Maya Evans, 25, convicted for reading out names of 97 British soldiers killed in Iraq at unauthorised protest.
- Douglas Barker, 72, threatened with jail for withholding part of his tax payment in protest at the Iraq conflict.
- Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a 37-year-old RAF medical officer, facing court-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq.
Just in case you were wondering, the 'unauthorised protest' was in violation of a 1km no-go zone around Westminster. The law in question was actually enacted with the aim of getting rid of a seasoned heckler. Unfortunately Maya fell foul of the law while reading the list of soldier's names by the Cenotaph (monument to the Unknown Soldier). Mr. Barker calculated that 10% of his tax would go to military expenditure. So he set it aside and told the Inland Revenue that he would be sending it to a foundation that helps children in Iraq.
As for Malcolm Kendall-Smith you may be forgiven for thinking that he is a coward in the guise of a conscientious objector. Not. He had already completed two tours of Iraq but after studying the legal position, including the advice of Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, he concluded the war was unlawful and he should not return.
British Justice delivered the following decisions:
Maya Evans: guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005; conditionally discharged and ordered to pay £100 costs.
Douglas Barker: Magistrates imposed a liability order, which means he has to pay the outstanding amount or bailiffs will become involved. Hilary Light, the chairwoman of the bench, said: "Whatever this court may feel, our jurisdiction is laid down and we can't say where money can go to. We are therefore going to make the liability order.'' No time limit was given.
The third case is still pending trial:
Flt Lt Kendall-Smith faces five charges of disobeying lawful orders under the RAF Act 1955. The court martial will begin on 15 March. His lawyer is basing the defence on the fact that it is not unlawful to refuse to participate in a war that is itself unlawful under international law.