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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 14:07 GMT
Anti-nuclear protesters fight MoD
Some of the protesters outside the High Court
About a dozen women protesters attended the High Court hearing
Campaigners banned from holding monthly protests at Britain's nuclear weapons factory in Berkshire have taken their fight to the High Court.

The Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp was barred from land outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) last May.

The MoD introduced new by-laws to ban them from the government-owned land.

The women, who have held protest camps for more than 20 years, are seeking a judicial review of the MoD's actions.

AWE provides the warheads for Trident - the submarine-launched ballistic missile system that constitutes the UK's nuclear deterrent.

About a dozen protesters were at the High Court to hear the case.

The secretary of state has taken the view that this land is not suitable for anyone to camp on
Gordon Nardell
Counsel for the MoD

During the hearing David Pievsky, representing the campaigners, said the monthly weekend camps were an important part of the peace movement - and pointed to previous protests such as the ones at Greenham Common.

He told the court: "At the heart of the dispute is whether it's really necessary to criminalise camping outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment, with the effect that the women's peace camp comes to an end."

He added there was "no suggestion" the women had ever protested "in anything other than a peaceful manner".

The MoD argues the by-laws are necessary because of heightened security concerns in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the US and fears that terrorists could target nuclear sites.

Gordon Nardell, representing the MoD, told the High Court: "This restriction applies to everyone not just the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp - but also the scouts, or say, the Ramblers Association."

Toilet facilities

He told the court the secretary of state was "trying to keep his own house in order", and not attempting to "put his tanks" onto any private land nearby where the women might be given permission to camp by the owner.

The MoD was also concerned that MoD police could not ensure the safety of protesters from attacks by local residents, which had happened in the past, he said.

There were also worries about the lack of toilet facilities at the camp site.

"The secretary of state has taken the view that this land is not suitable for anyone to camp on," Mr Nardell said.

Since the new rules came into force a number of protesters have been arrested, but all the prosecutions have been discontinued.

An earlier by-law that covered the land, introduced in 1986, was never enforced because it was unclear and, according to the protesters, included restrictions that were in breach of the Human Rights Act.

The hearing continues.

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