Friday October 22, 1999
Women cleared as court rules nuclear arms illegal
by Gerard Seenan
The (brit.) government was last night facing demands to order an immediate review of its nuclear weapons programme after a Scottish sheriff ruled Trident was illegal under international law.
The calls came after three women who admitted damaging a Trident nuclear submarine installation were cleared after Sheriff Margaret Gim blett's ruling that they had been acting to prevent a crime under international law and had reasonable excuse for the actions.
The Trident Ploughshare anti-nuclear campaigners caused around #100,000 worth of damage when they "disarmed" Maytime, a floating laboratory at the Faslane naval base, near Lochgoilhead, Argyll, on June 8.
Sheriff Gimblett, sitting at Greenock sheriff court, yester day ordered a jury to acquit Angela Zelter, 48, Ellen Moxley, 63, and Ulla Roder, 45, of charges of malicious mischief and theft, ending a trial which had lasted 4
The lord advocate is likely to appeal against the decision. A spokesman for Trident Ploughshare said the ruling left the government's nuclear weapons policy in tatters. "The pressure is now on the lord advocate to ask the government to conduct a full legal audit of Trident - or to begin criminal charges," he said.
After refusing to guarantee they would not attack any other nuclear instillation, the three women remain at Cornton Vale prison, Stirling.
They were arrested by ministry of defence police more than three hours after they boarded the Maytime, a barge which was part of the Trident nuclear instillation. The three damaged computers and machinery with superglue, sand and syrup, before throwing the equipment overboard into Loch Goil. John Mayer, defending,said a 1996 ruling by the international court of justice made Trident and all nuclear weapons illegal.
But the sheriff told the women they did not have free rein to carry out reckless acts.
A spokeswoman for the ministry of defence said: "The ministry of defence is confident that our nuclear weapons are not illegal and we must remember that the actual court cases were about malicious damage."
The Scottish National party, which has pledged to rid Scotland of Britain's nuclear weapons, welcomed the ruling. But the Scottish Conservative party said it was a charter for "loony pacifists". The women said they would still support direct action, but would no longer be taking part themselves.