27th September 1999
The jury trial of Trident Ploughshares activists Ellen Moxley, Ulla Roder and Angie Zelter begins on 27th September in Greenock Sheriff Court. They are accused of £100,000 worth of damage Maytime, a floating laboratory and part of the Trident nuclear weapon system, on June 8th 1999 in Loch Goil, Scotland.
Ellen Moxley is a 63 year-old Scot who lives in Dollar. A zoologist by profession she has been active on peace issues since 1958. She worked in orphanages in Vietnam and actively opposed the war. Latterly she shared in the work of Peace House, near Dunblane in Scotland. She is a Quaker, a member of the Iona Community and of the Stirling Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament. Ellen was one of the first to join Trident Ploughshares.
Angie Zelter (41), comes from Cromer, Norfolk in England. She is a well-travelled campaigner on human rights and environmental issues and has been active in nuclear disarmament since the early eighties. She is already well known as one of the four women who were acquitted by an English jury in 1996 after causing £1.5 million worth of damage to a Hawk jet bound for Indonesia. Angie is one of the prime movers behind Trident Ploughshares.
Ulla Roder (42), is a mother of two from Odense in Denmark. As a social worker she specialised in work with the homeless. The disparity between the allocation of resources to relieve poverty and those devoted to arms led her to join the resistance to militarism and nuclear weapons. Visits to Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment and the Menwith Hill communications complex led to her becoming a pledger with Trident Ploughshares.
In Greenock Sheriff Court (20 miles from Glasgow) before a jury of 15 and Sheriff Margaret Gimlett. The trial begins 10. a.m. on the 27th September and is expected to last at least seven days. If convicted the women face a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment (or more if referred to a higher court). The women have been on remand in HMP Cornton Vale in Stirling, Scotland since June 9th.
Ulla Roder’s solicitor is Matthew Berlow, of McIntyre and Berlow. Her defence will be conducted by advocate John Mayer.
Ellen Moxley’s solicitor is Stephen Fox, of Ross and Fox. Her defence will be conducted by advocate John McLaughlin.
Angie Zelter will conduct her own defence
The defence will be enhanced by expert witnesses, including Professor Francis Boyle, an expert on International Law from the US, Judge Ulf Panzer from Germany who has been personally involved in blockading a US nuclear weapons base there, and Rebecca Johnson from Geneva, a specialist on the effects of nuclear weapons and the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In line with the open and accountable ethos of Trident Ploughshares activists the women fully accept responsibility for the damage to Maytime. They left clear statements to this effect on Maytime. They will claim that their action was necessary to prevent the criminal activity of the British government in deploying the Trident nuclear weapons system, and that they had reasonable excuse for what they did. They will claim that they were acting to uphold international humanitarian law and pursuing their duty to prevent the mass murder of innocent people.
The UK Trident Nuclear Weapons System and International Law
The UK nuclear weapons system is based on four nuclear submarines which are berthed at Faslane on the Clyde near Glasgow. They carry American Trident missiles armed with British warheads, made and assembled at Aldermaston and Burghfield in England.. These are stored at the Coulport armaments depot 8 miles from Faslane. Each warhead is capable of inflicting 8 times the destruction caused by the bomb which fell on Hiroshima.
In July 1996 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons which specified that: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would be generally contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict and in particular the principles of humanitarian law.” (General List no 95, ICJ para 105 2E). It goes on to say that the only circumstance in which the use of nuclear weapons might justifiably be used would be an extreme circumstance of self defence. Even then it is clear that this use would have to be in accordance with humanitarian law, i.e., must never make civilians the object of attack, cause unnecessary suffering to combatants or threaten long term damage to the environment. The UK Government has consistently failed to provide a hypothetical example of how the use of Trident could possibly comply with the law.