Palestine Action co-founder charged with “conspiracy to blackmail” for opposing Israel’s arms trade

Apr 20, 2021 | 1 comment


date: 20th February 2021

for immediate release   

Palestine Action co-founder charged with “conspiracy to blackmail” for opposing Israel’s arms trade

  • Richard Barnard, co-founder of Palestine Action, was charged with “conspiracy to blackmail” at Charing Cross Police Station on 20th April 2021
  • Palestine Action has carried out sustained direct action against Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company’s factories and offices in the UK
  • The charges follow an arrest made on the 3rd February 2021, when the passports of both co-founders, Richard Barnard & Huda Ammori were unlawfully taken by the police
  • The charges are the latest of a series of intimidation and harassment tactics employed by the UK police force, used to try to deter activists from opposing Israel’s arms trade

On 20th April 2021, Richard Barnard, co-founder of Palestine Action, was charged with “conspiracy to blackmail” for opposing Israel’s arms trade. The spurious charge follows a series of successful actions by Palestine Action targeting Elbit Systems’ factories, and the premises of Elbit’s landlords, LaSalle.

This charge is the latest development in the state’s escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation, which aims to scare activists into submission and prevent actions which expose and disrupt Elbit’s murderous business. 

The police are currently using all tools available to them to attempt to demoralise and disrupt Palestine Action. Co-founders of Palestine Action have already been stopped under Schedule 7 and made to endure interrogations under counter-terror legislation, activists’ homes have been raided (or attempted to be raided) while they are in police custody, and possessions including passports and devices have been confiscated. Activists have been denied bail, or have had bail conditions set in such a way as to disrupt protest or even support for protest.

The bail conditions on this charge are no different – a 22:00-07:00 curfew, compulsory attendance at a police station upon request, and a ban on entering 6 jurisdictions where Elbit operate. Meanwhile the charge itself is a work of pure fiction. The charge alleges “conspiracy to blackmail”, based on ‘unwarranted demands by letters and emails sent to Lasalle Ltd’, which called on them to evict Elbit from their premises. This refers to letters sent to Lasalle, Elbit’s landlords, recommending that they do not associate with war criminals unless they are ready for action to be taken. 

Palestine Action co-founder Huda Ammori said:

This is not blackmail. This is asking for companies to abide by International Law and Human Rights Conventions.

This is just another extension of harassment by the police. We will not be deterred by police harassment; we will only grow stronger and call on everyone to join us in forcing war criminals out”.

The charge only shows the desperate tactics the police will employ, attempting to silence and obstruct protesters who shed light on the arms factories on British soil which facilitate war crimes.

Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms manufacturer, has 10 sites in the UK, including factories and offices. The company markets its weapons as “battle-tested” on Palestinian civilians in Gaza and uses this as a lucrative “selling point” to encourage oppressive regimes across the world to purchase its hardware. Elbit supplies 85% of the drones used by the Israeli military – drones which have been used to perform extra-judicial killings, to target and destroy Palestinian homes and to suppress protest. Elbit drones and arms were used extensively in ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in which 1383 Palestinians were killed, including 333 children.

Amongst other “customers” are the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who use Elbit’s drones to surveil and stop migrants seeking refuge in the UK. The Myanmar military employ Elbit drones as part of their ‘Digital Arsenal of Repression’, using Elbit products also to suppress minority groups in regions such as Rakhine State. Elbit have also begun supplying arms products to the Indian military’s ‘Project Cheetah’, whilst India engages in ongoing and violent suppression of Kashmiris. 

These are the crimes for which Elbit should be held accountable. However, charges are yet to be brought forward on any of the abhorrent conflicts and actions which Elbit is either directly or indirectly complicit in.

Notes to editors

Palestine Action

Examples of previous police crackdown

Elbit Systems