There were jubilant scenes in a Belfast court this week as six Derry anti-war protesters were unanimously acquitted of destroying property belonging to multinational arms company Raytheon.
As the Crown Court jury of four men and seven women were led from court, the six men and their supporters who had packed the public gallery clapped and cheered in appreciation of the unanimous verdicts.
The six, who included veteran political activist Eamonn McCann, were each accused of criminal damage and affray.
McCann, who was convicted of stealing two computer discs belonging to the company, received a 12 month conditional discharge.
Speaking outside the court, Mr McCann said the men welcomed the jury’s decision and said it had “completely vindicated” their actions.
The men took part in a protest at Raytheon’s offices in Derry City in August 2006.
Raytheon makes Tomahawk, Cruise and Sidewinder missiles for the US Army.
The activists dedicated the not guilty verdicts to bereaved families in the Lebanon who they said had been bombed by Israeli Forces using Raytheon missiles.
“The jury have accepted that we were reasonable in our belief that the Israeli Defence Forces were guilty of war crimes in Lebanon in the summer of 2006,” McCann said.
“The action we took was intended to have, and did have, the effect of hampering or delaying the commission of war crimes.”
He also called on politicians and the citizens of Derry “to say in unequivocal terms that Raytheon is not welcome in our city”.
“We have not denied or apologised for what we did,” he added. “Personally speaking, and I believe I speak for all of us, it was the best thing I have ever done in my life,” declared Mr McCann.
Over the course of the last four weeks, the jury had heard that, following repeated bombing of Lebanese property in which numerous civilians died, the group of anti-war protestors forced their way into the Raytheon plant in Derry and caused significant damage to its server and computers.
The six all said their reason for doing so was to protect the lives and property of people in the Lebanon from being attacked by Israeli Forces who bought their weapons, weaponry systems and missiles from Raytheon.