Priest in court over peace protest

 A priest from east London is due to appear in court this morning for his part in a peace protest. Fr Martin Newell, 33, curate at St Margaret and All Saints in Canning Town, Brentwood Diocese, has been in Bedford Prison since his arrest on 3 November last year. He was moved to Belmarsh (Category A) prison in Woolwich yesterday (Monday). Fr Martin faces charges of burglary and criminal damage, which carry a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment. He is being charged with another Catholic protester, Susan van der Hijden, 31. The pair were arrested at RAF Wittering on 3 November last year, after they climbed over a fence and tried to disarm a nuclear-convoy vehicle used for carrying nuclear warheads for British submarines. They painted the words 'The Kingdom of God is among you', 'Drop the debt, not the bombs' and 'Love is the fulfilment of the Law' on the truck. Then they went in search of the guards and gave themselves up. Fr Martin and Susan said in a statement: "We acted in a spirit of repentance for our complicity in crime against humanity and God. We have acted to uphold the law. Through the Jubilee 2000 campaign, the church has committed herself to working for justice for the poor and the oppressed. British nuclear weapons are a central part of the chain of oppression. As Christians we have taken responsibility and acted in solidarity with the 'least of this world'." Both will appear at Basildon Crown Court at 10.30am today. Their defence lawyer is Gareth Pierce. This morning, parishioners from Holy Trinity Catholic church in Wickhay, Basildon, plan to gather with other peace groups, including a monk and nun from the Nipponzon Myohoji Buddhist Order, for a prayer vigil outside the court. At 7.30 this evening Holy Trinity have organised a last-minute talk and film show at 7.30 to support Fr Martin and Susan. For more information about either event call Ciaron O'Reilly on: 07947-569577.

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