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BBC Scotland's Joanne Macaulay
"Tommy Sheridan said he had international law on his side"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 18:49 GMT
Jail looms for MSP
Faslane protest
The MSP was arrested on Valentine's Day
An MSP is facing jail after being convicted on charges arising from a Valentine's Day demonstration at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde.

Tommy Sheridan, 36, who was elected to the Scottish Parliament last year, was found guilty of breach of the peace and resisting arrest.

He had denied the charges which arose from a demonstration at the home of the UK's Trident submarine fleet on 14 February.

Sheridan, who is leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, was fined 250 at Helensburgh District Court but said he had no intention of paying.

The loss to the family from my period of imprisonment will be unfortunate but inevitable

Tommy Sheridan
The list MSP for Glasgow was given 28 days to pay the fine - or be sent to prison for 14 days.

As president of the Anti-Poll Tax Federation, he served six months in jail for breaking an order relating to the non-payment of the community charge.

Sheridan has consistently attacked Labour's policies in Scotland and has championed the abolition of warrant sales.

He was among 150 people arrested at the base during the demonstration, which was supported by Sir Sean Connery.

Speaking after the hearing, Sheridan said: "This crime was nothing compared to the crime which we were trying to prevent.

Tommy Sheridan
Sheridan leads the Scottish Socialist Party
"We were trying to prevent the madness of nuclear weapons which will lead to the destruction of humanity."

Sheridan, who was accompanied throughout the hearing by his wife Gail, said he now expected to be arrested in 28 days' time at his home in Glasgow.

"The loss to the family from my period of imprisonment will be unfortunate but inevitable.

"Politicians have to stand up for their beliefs if they are to expect ordinary people to make their protests."

A fortnight's jail sentence would have no impact on him as an MSP. He would have to be imprisoned for a year or more before risking expulsion.

However, he could face sanctions from the standards committee for bringing the parliament into disrepute.

'Friendly' demonstration

The police officers who arrested the MSP told the court he had had his arms linked with other protesters in an attempt to stop traffic.

Constable Charles MacArthur told the court: "I informed him that if he failed to remove his arm there would be a further charge of resisting arrest. He refused to desist."

But under questioning from Sheridan who conducted his own defence, the officer agreed that the MSP had acted entirely peacefully throughout the incident and the demonstration itself was "friendly".

A peace camp is sited at Faslane
After being found guilty and his previous convictions were shown to the court, he said: "The only statement I would make in mitigation is that today's trial and all the offences you will see are related to political activity of a non-violent character.

"I feel it is my duty to inform you that I do not intend to pay any fine in relation to the offence as I feel that by paying a fine I would almost be agreeing that the court is right in relation to the rights of people to protest against nuclear weapons."

The High Court in Edinburgh is continuing to hear an appeal by the Lord Advocate against a sheriff's decision to clear three protesters of criminal damage at Faslane.

In reaching her decision, Sheriff Margaret Gimblett agreed with the accused's argument that Trident was illegal, according to the International Court of Law.

This ruling was quoted by Sheridan in his defence.

A spokesman for the anti-nuclear group, Trident Ploughshares, said: "What the verdict does for us is give us enormous encouragement that a member of the Scottish Parliament is willing to stand by us and support the prevention of nuclear crime."

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See also:

13 Nov 00 | Scotland
Eight charged over Trident protest
09 Oct 00 | Scotland
Trident 'legal' says Crown
17 Jul 00 | Scotland
'Injustice' fight reaches Scotland
08 Jun 00 | Scotland
Warrant sales pledge
10 May 00 | Scotland
Sheridan denies Trident charges
14 Feb 00 | Scotland
150 held in Trident protest
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