Two US military veterans of their 80s have been convicted of interfering with the operation of Shannon Airport as a part of an anti-war protest three years in the past.
The jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court acquitted Ken Mayers (85) and Tarak Kauff (80) of felony injury to an airport perimeter fence and of trespassing the airport with the intent to commit an offence or intervene with property.
The verdicts got here in on Tuesday afternoon after simply over 5 and a half hours of deliberations.
The jury returned a majority verdict of responsible on the cost of interfering with the operation, security or administration of an airport by getting into the runway space and inflicting the airport to shut. The majority verdict was 10 to 2, the courtroom heard.
After the verdicts have been handed down, defence counsel requested that the boys be allowed to return to the US and are available again in a fortnight for sentence. This was opposed by the prosecution.
Judge Patricia Ryan famous the boys had been discovered responsible of a critical cost. “They have lost the presumption of innocence,” she mentioned.
She ordered that they return their passports and she or he set a sentence date of Wednesday.
The five-day trial heard that at about 10am on St Patrick’s Day 2019 the 2 males lower a gap within the airport perimeter fence with a pair of bolt cutters — inflicting injury to the worth of €590 — earlier than strolling on to airport lands.
They have been met on a taxiway by an airport officer after workers have been alerted to a safety breach. When requested what they have been doing, the pair mentioned they have been peace protesters who have been there to examine US army plane. They had a folded-up banner with them.
Veterans for Peace
The airport was shut down for about 40 minutes, the trial heard, with two planes delayed in departing and one cargo aircraft compelled to remain within the air till given the all-clear.
The courtroom heard each males served within the United States army earlier than turning into anti-war activists within the Nineteen Sixties. They are members of a US-based group referred to as Veterans for Peace.
From the outset, they each admitted chopping the outlet within the fence and getting into the airport lands.
Giving proof to the jury, they mentioned they did so to protest towards the United States’ army use of Shannon as a stop-over en path to locations such because the Middle East.
Mayers, of Monte Alte Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Kauff, of Arnold Drive, Woodstock, New York had each pleaded not responsible to trespass, felony injury and interfering with the operation, security or administration of Shannon Airport on March seventeenth, 2019.
The environment within the trial was at occasions congenial, with each airport official and garda who handled the boys describing them as courteous and respectful. Airport and fireplace officer Richard Moloney mentioned they have been “the nicest and most courteous” protesters he had ever met in his 19 years at Shannon Airport.
In flip, Mayers and Kauff praised the officers they handled for his or her respect and professionalism, saying that they had by no means been handled higher of their years of protesting.
The two pensioners spent 13 days in Limerick Prison in 2019, after bail was denied within the District Court amid garda fears they’d flee the jurisdiction. This was overturned within the High Court, however they remained in Ireland for an extra 9 months till their passports have been returned. They returned from the US to face trial in Dublin.
At the guts of the defence case in relation to the felony injury cost was the assertion that the accused males held an honestly-held perception that their motion in chopping the fence was justified as a way to defend different individuals.
The jury was informed it was not mandatory for this perception to be justified, however that the assumption needed to be actually held. In her instructions, Judge Patricia Ryan informed the jury it was being requested to get into the minds of the 2 accused.
In his closing speech, Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, acknowledged the jury might need sympathy for the 2 defendants.
“They are sincere and honourable persons,” he mentioned. “That can’t be disputed and is not disputed.”
But Mr McGillicuddy mentioned the jury should put sympathy apart and have regard to the regulation within the case.
The prosecution case was that the boys didn’t have any lawful excuse to break the perimeter fence. He mentioned there was no proof there have been any munitions on board the aircraft. He mentioned there was no proof in relation to there being a necessity to guard any individuals.
“They were there for education purposes and the education of law enforcement personnel,” Mr McGillicuddy mentioned. He mentioned they have been “making a political statement, drawing attention to matters, highlighting matters”.
“That may be very understandable but it is not a lawful excuse under the Criminal Damage Act,” he mentioned.
In relation to the cost of interfering with the operation, security and administration of an airport, Mr McGillicuddy submitted that the boys’s presence on the taxiway at Shannon Airport brought about the closure of the airport.
In relation to the cost of trespassing with intent to trigger injury or intervene with property, the prosecution case was that the boys had admitted to getting into the airport grounds and had informed officers that they have been there to examine a aircraft.
Michael Hourigan BL, defending Mayers, informed the jury that the boys weren’t engaged in some form of “political posturing”, however had an honestly-held perception that the actions they did on that day may save lives.
Mayers had “an ethical and moral obligation he felt, on the basis of all he had experienced and all that he knew,” Mr Hourigan mentioned.
In relation to the prosecution assertion that there have been no arms on board the aircraft that day, Mr Huorigan famous that no airport official inspected the aircraft, nor was there a observe of inspecting US army planes at Shannon Airport.
“You do not have to determine whether or not there were arms on that plane or a breach of Irish neutrality,” Mr Hourigan mentioned. “It is whether these sincere and honourable men are being sincere and honourable when they tell you: ‘This is what I believe, and this is what I did’.”
He put it to the jury members that once they attain the age of 83, they might be “doing something different than standing in the mud in a wet field in Clare”.
“But that is what he (Mayers) felt he had to do to protect human life.”
Mr Hourigan mentioned there was much more to constitutional democracy than the letter of the regulation.
“The jury is the lamp that shows that freedom lives,” he mentioned, quoting on outdated authorized saying. “Be the lamp and show that freedom lives. The only way you can do that is by delivering verdicts of not guilty.”
In her closing speech, Carol Doherty BL, defending Kauff, informed the jury “the best thing about the law in Ireland” was that there’s a built-in mechanism to make sure that in the appropriate circumstances, an individual can’t be convicted of felony injury, supplied they’ll present they actually believed their actions have been lawful.
She recalled her consumer’s proof to the jury that he believed the aircraft at Shannon was a “US war machine” en path to war-torn Yemen.
In relation to the cost of interfering with the operation of the airport, Ms Doherty mentioned the airfield was closed to make sure nobody else was on the airfield, not as a result of her consumer was strolling alongside the taxiway.
In relation to the allegation the boys trespassed with the intent to hold out felony injury or intervene with property, Ms Doherty mentioned that when he was met by the airport officer, Kauff had a telephone, his pockets and a folded-up banner on his individual and nothing else.
Ms Doherty mentioned Kauff had devoted his life to peaceable protest.
“People who go against the great can make a difference,” she mentioned. “It’s reasonable to assume Mr Kauff and Mr Mayers might have made a difference. Hope is a powerful thing. The fact that hope wasn’t realised on this occasion doesn’t mean this action wasn’t justified.”