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UK: Palestine activists face prison over Elbit protest

Five face up to six months each in jail after protest outside factory owned by subsidiary of Israeli drone maker Elbit.

A group of Palestinian activists in the UK could be imprisoned after a protest outside a factory owned by a subsidiary of Israeli drone manufacturer, Elbit Systems.

Five protesters were arrested in July after the demonstration in the West Midlands town of Shenstone and later charged with a breach of the Trade Union and Labour Relations.

Operations at the UAV Engines Ltd plant were shut down for two days starting July 6 with protesters laying out mock coffins outside the factory and laying on the ground outside its gates.

The specific offence the activists are accused of carries a sentence of up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 British pounds ($6,410).

A court hearing on Friday was adjourned pending a review of the charge by prosecutors with the possibility that the current charge may be dropped and a new one added.

Not guilty plea

The Birmingham and Manchester branches of Palestine Action, which helped organise the protest said those accused would be pleading not guilty.

"They [protesters] believe that the factory is complicit in illegal activity and that they were preventing a crime," the group said in a statement.

Defence lawyer Mike Schwarz said: "An issue at trial is likely to be the lawfulness of [Elbit and UAV Engine's] activity in its factory."

A spokesperson for Elbit said the company will not comment on the issue.

Based in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Elbit produces military and civilian-use equipment, including drones, aircraft, weapon control systems, and artillery.

The company's customers include the Israeli army, US Air Force, and the British Royal Air Force.


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