Ahava four found not guilty

August 11, 2010

Palestine activists celebrate legal victory

Lizzie Cocker, 10 August 2010

Palestine solidarity activists who chained themselves inside a shop whose owners stood accused of financially supporting illegal Israeli settlements were found to have acted lawfully on Tuesday.

Bruce Levy, Taherali Gulamhussein, Tom Ellis and Ms Crouch were found not guilty of failing to comply with an officer’s orders to leave the Ahava shop in Covent Garden, London, where they had chained themselves to a concrete block in September and December 2009.

Defence solicitors Simon Natas and Irvine Thanvi argued that the defendants were unable to leave as they were locked to the concrete and that there had been sufficient information available for the officer to conclude that the shop was acting illegally.

The defence presented evidence that Ahava’s mislabelling of its products as “Dead Sea: Israel” contravened Defra guidelines and that the British authorities knew that Ahava’s products were manufactured in the illegal Israeli settlement Mitzpe Shalem.

Ahava profits are used to financially support the settlement.

Mr Gulamhussein criticised the police and prosecution for failing to make “any inquiries into the lawfulness of the company despite lots of people raising serious doubts and showing lots of evidence that this company is guilty of major crimes.”

The prosecution dropped a charge of aggravated trespass which prevented lawful activity on Monday, the day the trial started.

The prosecution case suffered a devastating setback when the Ahava Covent Garden manager Rita Trindade, one of its key witnesses, ignored two summons and failed to attend court to give evidence.

Mr Natas insisted that the company “is quite blatantly engaged in illegality on the basis that it labels its products as coming from Israel.”

But he said that Ahava has no intention of changing its labelling and Mr Natas criticised the authorities’ failure to act.

“That’s why my clients did what they did, they felt they had no alternative.”

He added: “We are definitely going to see more of this happening.

“As long as Israeli companies, officials and politicians break international law and yet are allowed to behave with impunity then we will see individuals attempting to do things like this more often.”

A protest called by the International Solidarity Movement against the ongoing trade in settlement produce and Israeli produce in general will be held this Saturday from 12pm to 2pm outside Ahava Covent Garden.

keyterm: boycottahava

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