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Correspondence: Court victory for the SPSC 5

Allan Armstrong, SSP International Committee, member of the SPSC. 

8 April 2010

It is nearly two years since the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Five disrupted a performance of the Jerusalem Quartet to protest against Israeli state atrocities directed at the Palestinians living in Gaza.  In the intervening period, and against all the agreed evidence to the contrary, the Crown attempted to change the original breach of the peace charges to racially aggravated breach of the peace. Furthermore, in its submission in court on March 29th, the Crown made it abundantly clear that it wanted a ruling, which would allow for the same charges to be made against those protesting state actions on public demonstrations.

On April 8th, the sheriff finally gave his ruling at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court. This ruling amounts to a complete vindication of the SPSC 5. The sheriff dismissed the Procurator Fiscal’s attempt to equate the actions of the five accused with those anti-Irish Catholic bigots and name-calling anti-Asian/Muslim racists the PF had cited.  Furthermore getting to the heart of the issue at stake, the sheriff stated that if the Crown case was upheld, this would mean that demonstrators protesting at Israeli (or similar) state actions, would be confined to shouting out, “Stop the genocide in an unnamed Middle Eastern state”! There was some laughter in the court at this point.

After the full ruling had been read out (this will be posted on there was an outbreak of clapping in the court. Mick Napier, one of the defendants, addressed the forty or so supporters outside the court, claiming it as a significant victory against those supporters of Israel, who attempt to demonise effective opposition with accusations of anti-semitism. As Marion Woolfson has said, “Anyone who stands up for Palestinians is automatically accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’. I am Jewish and proud to be Honorary President of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an anti-racist group that opposes Israeli apartheid.”

One ominous thing, though, is that the Crown wanted leave to appeal. Whilst any rational person would say that the sheriff’s ruling represented “an outbreak of common sense”, such thinking does not seem to have informed the Crown’s actions so far.


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