One of the founders of the direct action network Palestine Action was called to appear at Charing Cross Police Station this afternoon, where he was charged with conspiracy to commit blackmail, a serious indictable offence.
The charge relates to actions the group is alleged to have carried out spraying blood red paint on the offices of LaSalle Investment Management who act as landlords of the Elbit Systems London headquarters in Kingsway.
Richard Barnard appeared in a video threatening that he and other activists would go on hunger strike outside the offices of LaSalle if they did not evict Elbit Systems from their property.
Palestine Action have carried out several actions against Elbit Systems over the past few months, closing down factories which produce weaponry and support systems which the group say have been used in war crimes against civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, and also in Kashmir and Myanmar.
The activists believe that they have lawful excuse for any criminal damage they are alleged to have carried out, and they want to get into court and have a jury decide whether Elbit Systems should be allowed to continue their activities in the UK. Currently it looks like they will have their chance in mid-May at Staffordshire Crown Court, although a previous case collapsed when Elbit refused to produce documents and the Crown Prosecution Service had to abandon the trial.
Elbit Systems and LaSalle have been contacted for comment, but neither have responded.