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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
No end in sight for anti-war protester
By Mario Cacciottolo
BBC News

Brian Haw
Brian Haw has held an anti-war protest for more than five years

Anti-war protester Brian Haw arrived for his latest court appearance with a band of his supporters in tow - but once again, things did not go smoothly for the man who refuses to give up his protest in Parliament Square.

Anyone who saw Brian Haw's higgledy-piggledy 40m long display of anti-Iraq war placards in its full effect in Parliament Square might not be surprised at the way he seems to be sucked into chaos, even at magistrates' court.

To some he is another landmark for curious tourists visiting Parliament, to others a nuisance who has made his point and should be moved on.

Mr Haw, who is lean, swarthy and looks a little younger than his 57 years, is accused of failing to comply with rules imposed under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA), issued to him in May.

The alleged breaches include erecting placards in an area of Parliament Square in an area exceeding 3m in height by 1m in depth.

A sudden change of legal venue on Tuesday morning cues a bit of a panic amongst his support, who immediately start hailing cabs for the dozen or so people who have turned up to back their man.

Mr Haw mutters about this confusion being instigated on purpose, so as to throw the media off the scent of his story, then crosses a busy road, seemingly oblivious to the traffic.

Police raid

On 23 May this year dozens of placards erected by the lone protester in Parliament Square were seized by police in a controversial raid.

It is this removal of his property that seems to upset him the most, and is a point he repeatedly raises.

"The police stole my evidence. How can I have a fair trial without my evidence that Tony Blair is committing genocide?" he asks.

Mr Haw is referring to the banners, placards and posters that once spread over 40m in Parliament Square, outside the House of Commons.

Bryan Pope
Bryan Pope says Mr Haw is fighting for free speech in the UK

Since the SOCPA rules were enforced, however, these were vastly reduced to a much smaller space.

Eventually the hearing begins in Marylebone, but after some debate the case is adjourned once again when Mr Haw's barrister, Ian Macdonald QC, argues that not enough time had been set aside for the case.

He also tells the court that the defence was planning to submit an application for a judicial review at the High Court to look at the legality of the conditions imposed on Mr Haw.

During the hearing, Mr Haw never stops writing in a notepad. When he fills a page, he rips it noisily and taps Mr Macdonald on the shoulder, who takes the paper.

Case adjourned

When the case is adjourned to 28 September, there are deep sighs from his support in the public gallery, with mutterings of "waste of time" and an attempted ripple of applause that fails to catch on.

Mr Haw refuses to talk inside the court building, indicating with his hand that he wants a cigarette.

Outside he says: "I've been on that pavement for five years and three months.

"I've never done any of the things that this new law was designed to prevent."

He also returns again and again to his "40m of evidence of genocide" which was "stolen" by police.

One of his supporters is Bryan Pope, 49, from Lewisham who mentions that he is blind, disabled and a former CND protester.

"Brian Haw is the only person we have got in this country demonstrating for our peace and for free speech.

"If the government and the courts take that away from us then we won't have anyone fighting for us and for people like me."


SEE ALSO
Anti-war signs seized by police
23 May 06 |  London

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