Diakonische Basisgemeinschaft in Hamburg
Arbeit für Frieden und Gerechtigkeit
Gastfreundschaft für Flüchtlinge
Leben in Gemeinschaft
"Erlassjahr Pflugschar 2000" - das Verfahren

Mahnwache in Hamburg

of Susan and Martin / May 2001 (mostly in english)

Mittlerweile ist das Gerichtsverfahren gegen Susans und Martins Pflugscharaktion beendet. Die Dokumentation über die Verhandlung steht uns im Moment leider nur auf Englisch zur Verfügung, die wir hier aber dennoch wiedergeben wollen. Mehr Infos gibt's auf auf der Webseite des London Catholic Workers.


Summary of Jubilee Ploughshares Trial

Susan van der Hijden (32), from Amsterdam, and Father Martin Newell (33), from Canning Town in London, are charged on two counts of criminal damage, totalling £31000, after disarmament work on a nuclear weapon convoy truck at Wittering in November last year.


Day One

At the start of the trial, Susan told the court that she was defending herself and that she would like the assistance of a Mackenzie friend. Judge Durroch readily agreed and throughout the day seemed fairly amenable. Martin has a legal team defending him consisting of Gareth Peirce and Terry McManus.

The Prosecution began the case with an opening statement which more or less summarised what had happened but nevertheless managed to insinuate that Susan and Martin were mere vandals out to seek personal publicity for themselves and their campaign. A number of police and Ministry of Defence personnel were called to testify to the disarmament. Martin's barrister cross examined them about their knowledge of the lethality of Trident and the danger of nuclear weapon convoys. All of them claimed not to know anything at all about Trident or nuclear weapons. One witness, a Scene of Crimes officer, stated that he had not know that RAF Wittering had anything to do with Trident or nuclear weapons until this case.

Susan cross examined several of the witnesses who agreed that she and Martin did not threaten them in any way. There was strong disagreement however, about how security personnel became aware of Susan and Martin's presence. Susan and Martin say that they had to literally knock on the police post door to alert them to their presence whilst the security officers said an alarm went off just as Susan and Martin approached the police post. There has been an internal RAF inquiry about the (lack of)security.

Shockingly, a drinks party was held in the building where the nuclear weapons convoy was being held just hours before Martin and Susan arrived. It was stated that this was a fairly routine occurrence. One of the witnesses stated that he had had three cans of larger before he secured the building. However, other personnel, no doubt anxious to save their jobs, reported that no alarms had gone off. Martin and Susan entered the building through an unlocked door.


Day Two

The prosecution case continued. One police officer who previously work at RAF Wittering for the RAF and who actually lived in the village of Wittering claimed under cross examination never to have given any thought whatsoever to the possibility of nuclear accident so near his home. Even the jury had to laugh at this. The prosecution presented several items - wrapped in large plastic evidence bags - found at the scene of disarmament, including the Tridenting It Handbook and a book about the Hibushka the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagaski bombings. Martin's barrister read out several passages from the Tridenting it handbook whilst Susan made the officer open the bag and uncover the book on the Hibushka. This was then passed around the jury and each member took a few minutes to look through it.

After reading each of Martin and Susan's written statements as part of evidence from the tape recorded interviews, the Prosecution rested its case.

After lunch, Martin's barrister gave an opening speech outlining the dangers of the convoy, Trident and nuclear weapons in general. Martin then gave his testimony form the witness stand. He spoke about his gradual awareness of the issue and how he came into contact with Trident Ploughshares 2000. He spoke about the Jubilee debt campaign and his work for the homeless and people with mental illness. He gave a detailed account of what happened on the night in question. After a fairly severe cross examination by the prosecutor who tried to say that Martin couldn't really have wanted to stop the convoy as he hadn't tried to disarm it hard enough (?!) the trial was adjourned until tomorrow.


For there fence cutting action at the Menwith Hill base Helen John was sentenced yesterday to three months in jail and Anne Lee to two months. A warrant has been issued for Trident Ploughshares co-founder Angie Zelter who did not appear at sentencing. Helen John is an anti-starwars/anti-nuke candidate in P.M. Blairs electorate in the forthcoming British elections.

Letters of support should be sent individually to these women

c/- Peace Pagoda, Willen, Milton Keynes, MK15 OBA, ENGLAND, (they will be redirected to the appropriate jails from there).


The outside court scene at the Jubilee Ploguhsares trial has been running on themes of celebration and solidarity. Celeberating the nonviolent disarmament carried out by Fr. Martin Newell and Susan van der Hijden on the nuclear convoy truck at RAF Wittering on Nov. 3rd (they have remained in prison ever since). Building a nonvioilent resistance community/ movement that will continue to challenge the war-machine - Fight Fire With Water!

This act of disarmament has touched folks form a multitude of traditions and cultures. At a recent Barking gig on their 20th anniversary "Hunger Strike" tour (37 year old) Irish band the "Wolfe Tones" interrupted their gig to speak about the Jubilee Ploughshares disarmament and their hopes for peace in Northern Ireland. This afternoon, local (Chelmsford) Irish band "The Exiles" will be celebrating the disarmament with a session at the Judge Tindall pub in downtown Chelmsford from 5-7 p.m, get there if you can to meet folks from Holland, Sweden,U.S., Australia, Ireland, Chelmsford and around Britain who have gathered in Chelmsford to support Fr. Martin and Susan.


Day Three

Jury Likely to Retire Tomorrow in Jubilee Ploughshares Trial - Expert Witnesses Ruled Out

In the third and possibly penultimate day of the trial of the Jubilee Ploughshares activists the judge has not allowed expert witnesses for the defence and the jury has heard a powerful witness statement from one of the defendants, Susan van der Hijden.

As a Catholic Worker her aim had been to put the Sermon on the Mount into action but increasingly she had realised that root causes, among them nuclear weapons, had to be addressed as well as their symptoms in the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged people. She had studied the nuclear cycle in detail, from the mining of the minerals to the production of the finished weapon systems, and was fully aware of the great number of people who had died or suffered as a result. Describing the action at Wittering she told how she had used the phone in the vehicle shed after damaging the truck. First she dialled the alarm numbers by mistake and when the operator asked her if there was really an alarm she said no. She then got the internal operator to put her through to a member of her affinity group.

A supporter at Chelmsford Crown Court said: "Susan spoke with great confidence and her integrity shone through clearly. The jury now know that she came to this action after lots of prayerful consideration, as the only possible way to do what she could to disarm Trident."

Justice Alistair Darroch said that the jury did not need expert witnesses to establish the nature and effects of nuclear weapons. The jury would use its common sense on that matter. He is expected to sum up at 11.30. a.m. tomorrow after which the jury will be asked to consider their verdict.


The solidarity scene outside the court during the Jubilee Ploughshares trial has been brilliant.

Folks have gathered in support for the Jubilee Ploughshares from Chelmsford, around England, Australia, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Sweden and the United States. People from Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Quaker and Pagan traditions have offered prayers for the defendants and world peace. Practical solidarity and hospitality has flowed from Catholic and Anglican parishes, the Anglican Cathedral, local peace activists, a local pub and the local constabulary have been co-operative.

In one incident on Tuesday, an elderly passerby collapsed in cardiac arrest, Annika Spalde and two other nurses who were viewing our display board were able to act immediately while a local activist ran to get the police to radio medical support. The quick action had a lot to do with preserving this man's life - he remains on a life support system. Each morning we have been remembering him in our circle along with the dead of nuclear war preparations, deployment and use. We also call out the names of other brothers and sisters in prison for nonviolent anti-nuclear resistance - Helen Johns, Ann Lee, Helen Woodson, Fr. Carl Kabat, Phil Berrigan, Fr. Steve Kelly, Susan Crane, Mike Sprong, Mordachii Vanunu and the many Puerto Rican resisters.

We maintain an information point in the High St. with an excellent static display, banners, leaflets, conversation etc. A single file procession heads to the court at the beginning of each day where a Buddhist nun maintains a day long vigil with others.

Celebration has continued in the evenings with a cabaret on the first night, a shared meal and video evening on Tuesday and great craic in an Irish pub yesterday with local musicians and "party pieces" from Ireland, Australia, Holland, Liverpool Scousers and Cockneyville.

A closing circle yesterday heard from Mil Rai, Art Laffin, and Fr. Gerry Hughes SJ some of the expert and material witnesses gagged in the courtroom.


Day Four

Jury Still Out in Jubilee Ploughshares Trial

The fourth day in the trial of the Jubilee Ploughshares activists atChelmsford Crown Court has ended with the jury still considering their verdict.

Justice Darroch did not allow the defence's legal arguments, based on the illegality of Trident under international humanitarian law, to be put to the jury. Martin's barrister Terry Munyard told the eight men and four women that Martin had acted out of principle - there was nothing criminal in his intentions. History was full of examples of people who had brought about essential change by doing what they knew was right and technically breaking the law, such as the Suffragettes, anti-apartheid activists and Rosa Parks, who had defied segregation laws in Alabama.

In her final speech Susan told the jury that she had no choice but to act as she did. She pointed out that there had already been a number of acquittals of Trident Ploughshares activists. It would be nice if the jury would acquit, but she was only asking them to do what was right according to their own hearts. Wishing them peace in the jury room she sat down. In summing up Justice Darroch said there were three possible defences in such cases, the defence of necessity, the commission of a crime to prevent a greater crime and the commission of a crime to protect property. He claimed that that none of these could be applied to this particular case. The jury then had 1 hour and 50 minutes of deliberation but had not reached a verdict by the end of the session.


The solidarity scene outside the trial and in the public gallery remains solid with a good mix of local folks, Swedes, Aussies, Scousers, East Enders, Germans, Dutch, Buddhist, Baptist, Anglican, Pagan, Punks, Folkies, Classicals, teachers, nurses, mothers, fathers, kidz, nuns, priests et. al.

A vigil directly opposite the court with Sr. Astride of the Peace Pagoda and information display in the High St. with constant leafletting and discussion has been susutained throughout the week. International support has ranged from prayer vigils in Scotland to demonstrations outside the British Consul in Hamburg.

If Susan and Martin are sentenced to any more time (they have served a sentence equivalent to 14 months) immediate nonviolent resistance will follow by three members of the London Catholic Worker. If they are acquitted, have a hung jury or given time served...venues of celebrations in Chelmsford can be discovered by calling 07947-569577. The Plough Pub near the railway station is the likely venue in the evening (parking around the back). "Rave Against the Machine", next Monday night at the Army and Navy Pub.


Day Five

Guilty Verdict at Chelmsford - Jubilee Two Given 12 Months But Walk Free

At Chelmsford Crown Court today the two Jubilee Ploughshares activists were found guilty on all charges against them. Although sentenced to twelve months in prison they are now free since they have already served at least half that time on remand.

Susan van der Hijden (32), from Amsterdam, and Father Martin Newell (33), from Canning Town in London, were charged with criminal damage, totalling £31000, after disarmament work on a nuclear weapon convoy truck at Wittering in November last year.

In passing sentence Justice Darroch advised Susan and Martin that they were technically on parole and could be brought back to complete their sentence if they re-offended during the next six months. He also warned them that they would be facing a more severe sentence if they "committed such an offence" again.

Susan and Martin have been found guilty in the same week that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland not only reaffirmed its implacable opposition to Trident but gave specific encouragement to civil resistance against it.

A Trident Ploughshares spokesperson said: "It is unfortunate that the jury got it wrong but much more disturbing is the way Justice Darroch ensured they did not have the full facts by blocking expert witnesses and not allowing the jury to hear the defence's legal arguments. He appears to be uncritically supportive of the criminal activities of this nuclear weapon state. We look forward to the day when a genuinely independent justiciary will honestly face the implications of international humanitarian law. In the meantime the campaign continues and we take great encouragement from Susan and Martin's courage, single-mindedness and humanity."


Although the Jubilee Ploughshares had been sentenced in the late morning and ordered released by the Judge, they were held an additionl four hours as authorities claimed glitches in the bureaucracy. This delay ensured that reporters present would miss their deadline for the national dailys.

The soldiarity that had been constant during the week remained steadfast and Martin and Susan emerged at 4 p.m. to a joyous reception from local, national and international peace activists who had gathered for the trial. A final circle of solidarity concluded the week with speeches from Susan and Martin and a song from US Plowshares activist Artie Laffin. Songs were sung, drinks drunk, thoughts thunk and conspiracies of hope hatched late into the evening.


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