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Monday, September 20, 1999 Published at 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK


GM protesters plead not guilty

All the protestors face charges of theft and criminal damage

Twenty eight protesters arrested following an attack on a field of genetically modified crops have pleaded not guilty to criminal damage.

BBC's Andrew Sinclair: "All the protestors arrived at court together"
Among them was Norfolk farmer Lord Peter Melchett, the executive director of environmental campaign group Greenpeace.

The 51-year-old peer of Ringstead, Norfolk, and fellow protesters appeared before a magistrate in Norwich, accused of damaging a field of maize belonging to agro-chemical company AgrEvo.

Their not guilty pleas pave the way for a high profile court case in which a jury will be left to decide whether the actions of Greenpeace and its supporters were legal or justified.

High-profile case

Greenpeace filmed the dawn raid on the field at Lyng, Norfolk, on July 26.

The alleged offences could have been dealt with in the magistrates court, but the demonstrators elected to have their case heard before a jury in the crown court.

The case is expected to come to trial in the new year.

The defendants were all ordered to appear at Norwich Crown Court on 15 November. All were freed on bail pending trial.

Only three are from Norfolk. The rest are from various parts of the country including London, Surrey, Berkshire, Staffordshire, Cardiff, Hertfordshire, Derby, Norfolk, Manchester, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.

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