Priest arrested in arms fair protest

Fr Martin Newell at Remembrance Day vigil

Fr Martin Newell at Remembrance Day vigil

Fr Martin Newell cp, a Catholic priest from Birmingham, will be in court next week after being arrested last week for a peace protest at the DPRTE (Department of Procurement, Research, Technology, Exportability) Arms Fair in Farnham. He was charged with between £100 and £200 criminal damage to a sign at the Farnborough International airfield and conference centre, and bailed to return to Basingstoke Magistrates Court on April 11th.

Fr Newell had used red paint to represent the blood of the innocent victims of the arms trade. He wrote 'Yemeni blood on your hands' and put red paint on his own hands signifying his own complicity by silence in the blood that is shed as a result of the arms trade.

Among those involved in the DPRTE arms fair are the largest international arms companies in the world, such as BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who are all implicated in exporting missiles and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which have been used in the war in Yemen.

The DPRTE arms fair was scheduled to be held at the Birmingham NEC. However, following a concerted campaign by Birmingham Stop the Arms Fair the NEC announced at short notice that due to 'health and safety' concerns, it would instead be at Farnborough International airfield in Hampshire, where the Farnborough Airshow is held.

Fr Newell said "The arms trade fuels war around the world in the same way as the sale of guns, and knives fuels death on our streets. We in the UK and other arms companies are still selling missiles and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which is being used to bomb Yemen, resulting in the death of innocent men, women and children. I appeal to all in government and in companies producing and supplying arms to hear the cries of the victims of war and the arms trade, and to repent - to turn away - from the spiral of violence, and instead to work for peace.

My action at the DPRTE arms fair was an act of conscientious objection to the arms trade, which is a trade in death. My Catholic faith tells me to live by my conscience, to obey God's laws, even where this clashes with human authority. And Jesus came to be a prince of peace, not war, and his mission led him into conflict with the powers that be of his time and place. He wept because his people did not know 'the things that make for peace' (Luke 19:42)".

Fr John Kearns cp, Fr Newell's Superior in the Passionist Order, said: "We offer our support to Martin in his act of conscience and witness. As Catholics, Christians and Passionists, we are called to solidarity with all those who are suffering, all victims of violence and injustice. His willingness to suffer by going to prison for his commitment is a sign of hope and inspiration for us".

Fr Newell, 51, born in Walthamstow, London. He was ordained in Upton Park East London in 1997 and joined the Passionists in 2001.

Tags: Arms Fair, Fr Martin Newell, DPRTE, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Saudi Arabia, Farnborough

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