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Seeds of Hope (Ploughshares action)
(Film/Video, Neil Goodwin, April 1998)
PAL
SEEDS OF HOPE presents the inside story of how four women disarmed an Indonesia-bound Hawk fighter to prevent its use against the people of East Timor, and how, to gasps of astonishment, a Liverpool jury accepted their defence that they had acted to prevent the crime of genocide.

Using personal testimony, reconstruction and extracts of video evidence left in the cockpit of Hawk ZH 955, this documentary places events into a wider context of the Ploughshares Movement. (from 8.00)

DISARMING WOMEN

In January 1996 three women disarmed a Hawk fighter with ordinary household hammers. Six months later, a Liverpool jury stunned the legal profession by acquitting them of causing £1.5 million of criminal damage.

In the aftermath, puzzled judges called for an urgent investigation into the way juries think. Hard-nosed hacks no doubt filed the case away under: 'PERVERSE VERDICT - NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL THE NEXT BASKET-CASE JURY UPSETS THE JUDICIAL APPLECART'. But to those family and supporters who had packed the courtroom daily it was the culmination of one of the bravest acts of conscience in recent years. For a jury to recognise the womens' defence that they committed a crime to prevent a greater crime was as much a tribute to their skill and determination in taking the legal system on, as it was a ringing indictment of British arms manufacturers who bolster genocidal regimes.

The Hawk was part of a £500 million contract to supply 24 planes to Indonesia, whose brutal occupation of neighbouring East Timor has resulted in 200,000 deaths since 1975. Despite Government assurances that the Hawk is just a trainer, there have been numerous eyewitness accounts of Hawks from a previous deal being used against defenceless East Timorese.

The court heard how Andrea, Joanna and Lotta Kronlid had converged on British Aerospace's (BAe) factory at Warton, Lancashire.
The Ploughshares Movement takes its inspiration from the prophet Isaiah: 'They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks'(Isaiah 2:4). In 16 years, activists throughout the world have caused over £4 million worth of damage to such weapons as Trident submarines, B 52 bombers and F-111's, and served a collective total of 156 years in prison. For their action the women had anticipated anything up to 10 years imprisonment.

The Warton action was Britain's third disarmament. In March 1990, Stephen Hancock and Mike Hutchinson, wearing Mickey Mouse ears and tabards emblazoned with the words: 'Mickey Mouse Fan Club - Peace Section', broke into USAF Upper Heyford and caused £200,000 damage to an F-111.

Throughout their trial friends and supporters gathered outside the bombed-out ruins of Liverpool's St. Lukes church to remember East Timor's dead. Liverpool's Christian community flocked to the court daily. Dozens of white crosses were fixed to the barriers outside the main entrance, where Buddhist nuns and Catholic priests knelt before makeshift shrines praying for justice. Merseyside's church leaders even wrote a letter to John Major calling for a halt to the Hawk deal.

Remarkably, Judge "Wicked" Wickham allowed the screening of a video that the women had left behind in the cockpit. It contained shocking footage of 1991's Santa Cruz massacre, when Indonesian troops opened-fire on a peaceful protest, killing 272.

Defence witnesses included the TV journalist John Pilger, who had entered East Timor in 1993 posing as a travel consultant to secretly film the documentary "Death of a Nation". "I have reported from war zones like Cambodia and Vietnam, but I have never seen anything like East Timor," He told the court. "The country was like a vast cemetery, covered in crosses with the names of entire families marked on them."

Also giving evidence was Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's exiled Foreign Minister, whose family had been murdered by the Indonesian military.Prof. Paul Rogers, a military aircraft specialist from Bradford University's School of Peace Studies, told the court that Hawk ZH 955 had been due to join Indonesia's Bandung Squadron: "the country's most dedicated squadron for tackling insurgents". He rejected BAe's claim that the Hawk is "merely a trainer". "The Hawk has a significant ground-attack capability," He said. "It can carry up to 8 cluster-bombs which rain down shrapnel like razor blades."