Monday, 10 March 2008

Green activist challenges Trident nuclear weapons in court

The legality of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons was challenged in court last Friday in the trial of a peace activist from north London.

Green activist Daniel Viesnik, 33, from Brent, north London questioned the legality of Trident nuclear weapons before Newbury Magistrates’ Court on Friday 7 March as he faced trial on the minor charge of obstructing the highway. The charge related to a peaceful sit-down protest that took place on 27 July 2007 at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston in Berkshire, in the south of England, where Britain’s nuclear warheads are manufactured. According to Mr Viesnik, the protest was a statement of his passionate opposition to nuclear weapons, and to the British Government’s plans to replace or renew its Trident system.

The action took place in the context of a 900-mile, 86-day peace walk from Dublin to London (via Northern Ireland and Scotland), which was organised by the international group Footprints for Peace [1]. The purpose of the walk was to raise awareness of the issues surrounding nuclear and ‘depleted’ uranium weapons and nuclear power, and to campaign for a nuclear-free future for the UK and the world. Mr Viesnik was one of only four people to complete the walk from start to finish – the only British person to do so.

Mr Viesnik explained to the court how he had sat down in the access road in front of one of the gates to the nuclear bomb factory, along with three fellow walkers from the United States: two sisters in their twenties, Liana and Aleta Johannaber from Georgia; and Bernie Meyer, an elderly gentleman from Olympia, Washington who walked many hundreds of miles from the Faslane Trident submarine base in Scotland all the way to London dressed as and adopting the persona of Gandhi. Mr Viesnik explained that he felt his actions were entirely justified because he was trying to prevent crimes against humanity being committed, in collaboration with the United States, against the people of Iran; and because this form of protest was perfectly reasonable in view of the fact that the continuous deployment of Trident at sea and the development of new nuclear bomb-making facilities at AWE are contrary to Britain’s obligations under international law. He also pointed out that prior to the invasion of Iraq five years ago, the British Government had twice indicated its readiness to launch nuclear missiles in the event of (non-nuclear) attacks against British troops. Such threats, Mr Viesnik claimed, contravened international law.

The bench of three lay magistrates, having heard the various submissions, retired to consider their verdict. After three-quarters of an hour of deliberations, they returned a guilty verdict, but offered no explanation as to their decision. Mr Viesnik, who is currently unsalaried and does not claim benefits, was fined £50 plus £465 in court costs. Commenting upon his conviction, he said:

“I will probably refuse to pay a single penny on principle, since I firmly believe I am in the right and the British Government is in the wrong. The court is under a duty to uphold the law, which it has blatantly failed to do. No just society would prosecute and convict a citizen who acts according to his conscience to uphold international law. I am considering lodging an appeal.”

Dr Shahrar Ali, the Green Party London Assembly candidate for Brent and Harrow, said:
“I believe Daniel has acted honourably throughout, and instead of facing persecution by the state, his right to peaceful protest should be vigorously defended. The Green Party will continue to speak out against ignorant nuclear expansionism in all its forms.”

Mr Viesnik will soon be rejoining Footprints for Peace for another three-month peace walk for a nuclear free-future, this time from London to Geneva through France [2]. This walk sets off from Battersea Park Peace Pagoda on Saturday 26 April, the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Before that, he will return to Aldermaston for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)’s 50th anniversary event on Easter Monday (24 March) [3], which is expected to attract around 5000 people. He urges as many people as possible to attend this entirely peaceful and legal demonstration, which has police authorisation.

Contact: ; tel: 07506 234 091

1. Footprints for Peace homepage:
Blog archives from Dublin to London walk:

2. Details of London to Geneva walk:

3. For more details and to book transport to Aldermaston at Easter, readers should visit: or phone 0845 337 0282.

4. For more on nonviolent resistance to Trident nuclear weapons:

Trident Ploughshares:

Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp:

Block the Builders (at AWE Aldermaston): e-mail:

For further information and photos (including one featuring Daniel with Green London mayoral candidate Sian Berry and Dr Shahrar Ali, holding an anti-nuke banner outside Kilburn police station, as well as pictures from the original action), contact: ; tel: 07506 234 091

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