Four campaigners against Israeli apartheid were acquitted yesterday (August 10th) of all charges related to two direct action protests against the Israeli cosmetics retailer Ahava in Covent Garden, London. The campaigners locked themselves onto concrete-filled oil drums inside the shop, closing it down for two days in September and December of 2009.
The campaigners insist that they are legally justified in their actions as the shop’s activities are unlawful. All cosmetics on sale in the shop originate from Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, and are deliberately mislabelled “Made in Israel”.
To date, no campaigner has been successfully prosecuted and Ahava has consistently refused to cooperate with the prosecuting authorities.
On the first day of trial, prosecutors dropped aggravated trespass charges. This would have required the prosecution to demonstrate Ahava was engaged in lawful activity. Significantly, the CPS decided that this was not something they would attempt to prove.
The primary witness for the prosecution, Ahava’s store manager, refused to attend court to testify despite courts summons and threats of an arrest warrant leading to the activist’s acquittal on all remaining charges.
Ms Crouch, one of the four acquitted today said: “This is a small victory in the wider campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. We’ll continue to challenge corporate complicity in the occupation and Israel’s impunity on the international stage.”
Mr Matthews, another acquitted campaigner, added: “The message is clear. If your company is involved in apartheid and war crimes and occupying Palestinian land, people will occupy your shop.”
The British government, the European Union, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice all consider Israel’s settlements to be illegal, as they are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention are also criminal offences under UK law (International Criminal Court Act 2001).
For more information please contact the defendant’s solicitor Simon Natas on: 0208 522 7707 (UK)
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. In December 2009, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) issued guidance to retailers concerning produce grown in the occupied Palestinian territories.
It states that: “The Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders if the state of Israel.”
DEFRA Technical advice: labelling of produce grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 11 December 2009
2. The BDS initiative  was born in 2005 through a call by Palestinian civil society groups and organisations seeking a global non-violent means to challenge the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. It has been taken up by numerous groups and organisations internationally and has become a unifying global movement for those seeking justice for Palestine.