Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Essex Pensioner Jailed for Opposing Trident Nuclear Weapons

IRENE WILLIS, a 62-year-old peace activist from Southend (pictured, right), was today sentenced to seven days' imprisonment by City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London for refusing to pay a fine of £50 (+ £50 court costs). The fine was for deliberately obstructing traffic around Parliament Square during an anti-nuclear protest on 14th March 2007, the day Parliament voted to replace Trident, despite a huge Labour backbench rebellion.

Anti-nuclear campaigners argue that by agreeing to replace its Trident nuclear missile-carrying submarines, and constructing new facilities to enable the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons at Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire, the Government is in breach of a number of laws and international treaties [1]. One of these is the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Britain in 1968, which commits the then recognised nuclear states, including Britain, to act in good faith to decommission their existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and not seek to develop new ones.

At the same time, Britain continues to condemn Iran for its uranium enrichment programme, despite there being no evidence of an intended military use. Britain also joined the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that Saddam Hussein was thought to possess weapons of mass destruction, none of which have ever been found.

Ms Willis, who is also an environmental campaigner, is unrepentant: “although I have been found guilty of a ‘crime’, I must ask why, if we are all equal under the law, the British government is not also put on trial for breaking international law.

“Regardless of today's outcome, I will continue to challenge the state, which is committing itself to spending up to 100 billion pounds of taxpayers’ money renewing a nuclear weapons system which ministers say they intend never to use. Two-thirds of this sum would be enough to reduce our carbon emissions by the 90% needed to avert climate catastrophe.

“I would ask anyone who feels we should not have nuclear weapons to take a moment to write to their MP and suggest that they vote against any new nuclear missiles or warheads. The majority of the population does not support nuclear weapons, and the Scottish Parliament strongly opposes them, so let’s aim to remove this threat in 2008.”

Irene is expected to serve her sentence at HMP Holloway.

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