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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Pair cleared of air base damage
Toby Olditch (left) and Philip Pritchard
Toby Olditch and Philip Pritchard - arrested four years ago
Protesters who broke into an air base intending to sabotage B-52 bombers have been cleared of all charges.

Toby Olditch, 38, and Philip Pritchard, 36, denied conspiring to cause criminal damage, saying they were trying to prevent war crimes in Iraq.

The activists, from Oxford, admitted using bolt cutters to cut through a perimeter fence at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, prior to the Iraq war.

"We have been waiting four years for this day," Mr Olditch said afterwards.

"It demonstrates that the law really can come down to reasonableness."

Mr Pritchard said: "It is a great relief and a huge vote of confidence for anti-war protesters."

The worse case scenario for us would have been prison - but nothing compares to the horror that has been inflicted on innocent Iraqis
Toby Olditch, peace activist

The two men intended to damage the planes by clogging their engines, as well as sabotaging the runway, the jury at Bristol Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Peter Blair QC said the two had expected to be arrested and prosecuted and had made preparations for being sent to prison.

When caught by Ministry of Defence police they had coloured liquid and bags of nails and staples to use in the sabotage plan, the court heard.

Defending, Edward Rees said they carried out their protest because they believed the planes were being prepared to bomb Iraq indiscriminately with uranium and scatter bombs.

Legality of war

"These particular bombs would inevitably have resulted in indiscriminate death of civilians.

"They believed that the extent of the damage to normal life was unreasonable," he said.

Judge Tom Crowther told the jury before it retired: "I remind you again, you do not have to decide the legality of the decision to go to war."

Jurors took four hours to reach their not guilty verdicts.

Mr Olditch said afterwards: "From the outset we had been trying to prepare for all eventualities.

"The worse case scenario for us would have been prison - but nothing compares to the horror that has been inflicted on innocent Iraqis."


SEE ALSO
Activists deny damage at RAF base
14 May 07 |  Gloucestershire
Policing Iraq RAF base cost 8m
14 Dec 06 |  Gloucestershire
Victory for anti-war protesters
13 Dec 06 |  Gloucestershire

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