Documents obtained through a freedom of information request by Palestine Action suggest that officials from the Israeli embassy in London attempted to involve the UK attorney general’s office in court cases related to the prosecution of protesters. The papers show that embassy representatives sought the intervention of the director general of the attorney general’s office (AGO), Douglas Wilson, in cases connected to protests occurring in the UK. Though the details of the embassy’s requests are heavily redacted, an email from Wilson to embassy officials following a meeting indicated that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) makes independent prosecution decisions and that law officers cannot intervene in individual cases or matters related to active proceedings. The AGO justified the redactions by stating that disclosure might harm UK-Israel relations.
Palestine Action, an activist group targeting UK factories of Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems, obtained these documents. The emails also referred to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act, which introduced strict protest restrictions, and the attorney general’s referral of the Colston statue protest case to the court of appeal. This referral resulted in judges ruling that protesters facing charges of “significant” criminal damage couldn’t rely on human rights defences during trials, thus further limiting the right to protest. After the court of appeal decision, Palestine Action activists, like environmental protesters, have been convicted in similar cases they had previously been acquitted of using human rights defences.
The correspondence also included discussions between embassy officials and Wilson regarding private arrests in the UK for alleged war crimes. These details were redacted, but in the past, British courts issued warrants for high-ranking Israeli officials, including Tzipi Livni in 2009. Wilson explained the tightened procedures around issuing private arrest warrants, now requiring the consent of the director of public prosecutions, and mentioned the possibility of applying to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for “special mission immunity,” a rarely used status that grants immunity from prosecution for temporary missions representing a state.
An Israeli embassy spokesperson stated that they respect the British judicial system’s independence and would not interfere in UK legal proceedings. The embassy’s role is to raise awareness about attacks against entities linked to Israel and to assist Israelis worldwide, the spokesperson added.