Israeli embassy officials have tried to influence the prosecution of Palestine activists in Britain, documents suggest
Documents seen by the Guardian suggest that Israeli embassy officials have sought to influence the prosecution of activists in Britain campaigning in solidarity with Palestine. The documents, revealed through the Freedom of Information Act, show correspondence between the Director General of the Attorney General’s Office, Douglas Wilson, and the Israeli Assembly in London between May 202 and February 2023.
This correspondence suggests that Israeli embassy officials pushed for Wilson to interfere in cases related to protests on UK soil.
In an email dated 9 May 2022, when Suella Braverman was Attorney General, Wilson updated the Embassy on matters previously discussed in a meeting. He notes having raised matters on the embassy’s behalf to their Home Office colleagues, relating to Law Officer’s ability to intervene in prosecution decisions and casework. The parties also discussed the ‘operational independence of the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service]’, and the AGO’s ability to bring about prosecutions.
Campaign group Palestine Action claim the disclosed documents show the Israeli state has sought to exert pressure over the Director General of the Law Officer’s Department, over matters of British domestic law, policing, and prosecutions. The email of 9 May, came during months of intensive and widespread direct action from Palestine Action activists against the sites and offices of Elbit Systems, which saw two Elbit premises in London and Oldham close permanently. Elbit is an Israeli arms firm.
In an email dated 1 February 2023, four months into Victoria Prentice’s tenure as Attorney General, the Israeli embassy contacted Wilson. The correspondence discusses the making of a joint declaration between the respective countries’ Ministries of Justice – the body which oversees the judiciary, courts, prisons and probation – to seek ‘closer bilateral cooperation’ over ‘legislation and legal reform, civil and criminal law and legal education’.
Palestine Action have stated: “This is confirmation of what has been suspected for a long time, that the Israeli state is attempting to exert top-level diplomatic influence to lock up those who stand against its war machine. This undue influence further damages the credibility of charges brought against activists, who have faced criminal trials, sentencing, and litigious [harassment] for their action taken against the manufacturers of Israel’s murderous weaponry.
“This goes some way to explaining the ludicrous charges brought against activists: conspiracy to blackmail, [aggravated] criminal damage, or a seven week trial for ‘going equipped’ – these bogus charges have been brought about because the heads of the British Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Justice, and police have been working in close collaboration with an apartheid state. In the coming months we’ve over 100 activists due to stand trial, and the possible prison sentences faced represent an injustice of global [proportions] given that the Israeli war machine has clearly taken hold of British courts.
“If this has surfaced now after just one Freedom of Information request, we urge all supporters to undertake research themselves, and to find what else is out there.”
An Israeli embassy spokesperson told the Guardian it respected the independence of the British judicial system and “under no circumstances would interfere in UK legal proceedings”. They added: “As part of its ongoing work, the embassy of Israel raises awareness on severe attacks against entities related to Israel.
“Furthermore, it is the duty of the embassies of Israel around the world, including in the UK, to care for and provide assistance to Israelis wherever they are.”
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