The trial of two peace activists, Edward Horgan and Dan Dowling, ended today [25th January] at the Circuit Criminal Court in Parkgate Street, Dublin after a trial that lasted ten days.
Almost 6 years ago on 25th April 2017, the two peace activists were arrested at Shannon Airport and charged with causing criminal damage by writing graffiti on a US Navy aircraft. They were also charged with trespassing on the curtilage of Shannon Airport. The words “Danger Danger Do Not Fly” were written with a red marker on the engine of the warplane. It was one of two US Navy aircraft that had arrived at Shannon from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia. They subsequently flew on to a US air base in the Persian Gulf having spent two overnights at Shannon.
A Detective Sergeant gave evidence at the trial that the graffiti written on the aircraft had resulted in no monetary costs. Most if not all the markings had been wiped off the aircraft before it took off again for the Middle East.
The administration of justice was a protracted affair in this case. In addition to the ten days trial in Dublin it involved the defendants and their prosecutors attending 25 pretrial hearings in Ennis Co Clare and in Dublin.
Speaking after the trial, a Shannonwatch spokesperson said “Over three million armed US troops have transited through Shannon Airport since 2001 on their way to illegal wars in the Middle East. This is in violation of Irish neutrality and international laws on neutrality.”
Evidence was given in court that Shannon Airport has also been used by the CIA to facilitate its extraordinary rendition program that resulted in the torture of hundreds of prisoners. Edward Horgan gave evidence that US military and CIA use of Shannon were also in breach of Irish laws including the Geneva Conventions (Amendments) Act, 1998, and the Criminal Justice (UN Convention Against Torture) Act, 2000. It was pointed out that at least 38 prosecutions of peace activists had taken place since 2001 while no prosecutions or proper investigations had taken place for breached on the above mentioned Irish legislation.
Perhaps the most important piece of evidence presented in the case was a 34 page folder containing the names of about 1,000 children who have died in the Middle East. This had been carried into the airport by Edward Horgan as evidence of why they had entered. It was part of a project called Naming the Children which Edward and other peace activists were undertaking in order to document and list as many as possible of the up to one million children who had died as a result of US and NATO led wars in the Middle East since the first Gulf War in 1991.
Edward Horgan read out some of the names of children killed from this list as he gave evidence, including the names of 10 children killed just three months before their peace action in April 2017.
This tragedy occurred on 29th January 2017 when newly elected US President Trump ordered a US Navy Seals special forces attack on a Yemeni village, which killed up to 30 people including Nawar al Awlaki whose father and brother had been killed in earlier US drone strikes in Yemen.
Also listed in the folder were the 547 Palestinian children who were killed in the 2014 Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Edward read out the names of four sets of twin children who were killed in these attacks. One atrocity listed in his evidence was the terrorist suicide bombing attack carried out near Aleppo on 15th April 2017, just ten day before the peace action at Shannon in which at least 80 children were killed in horrific circumstances. It was these atrocities that motivated Edward and Dan to undertake their peace action on the basis that they had a lawful excuse for their actions to try to prevent the use of Shannon Airport in such atrocities and thereby to protect the lives of some of the people especially children being killed in the Middle East.
The Jury of eight men and four women accepted their arguments that they acted with lawful excuse. Judge Martina Baxter gave the defendants the benefit of the Probation Act on the charge of Trespass, on condition that they agree to be Bound to the Peace for 12 months and make a significant donation to a Co Clare Charity.
Both peace activists have said they have no problem being “bound to the peace” and making the contribution to charity.
Meanwhile, while this trial was going on in Dublin, back at Shannon Airport, Ireland’s support for ongoing US wars in the Middle East was continuing. On Monday 23 January, a large US military C17 Globemaster aircraft registration number 07-7183 was refuelled at Shannon Airport having come from McGuire Air base in New Jersey. It then travelled on to an airbase in Jordan on Tuesday with a refuelling stop at Cairo.
The military misuse of Shannon continues.
- More details of the trial on the Shannonwatch website at www.shannonwatch.org