European edition, Friday, June 1, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — A British man charged with attempting to set fire to U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers temporarily stationed at RAF Fairford on the eve of the war in Iraq is facing his second trial.

Josh Richards, 34, faces four charges in connection with his alleged attempt to break onto the base and set fire to the long-range bombers on March 18, 2003, according to the Bristol Crown Court.

Richards faces charges of attempted arson, having articles with an attempt to do damage to property, damaging property and cultivation of cannabis, according to a court clerk.

The Bristol man was apprehended for allegedly trying to get into the base with pliers, cigarette lighters and containers of petrol mixed with detergent, according to a June 29, 2004 article in the Guardian newspaper.

It’s unclear if the cannabis charge is connected to the March 18, 2003 incident.

The trial — which is being attended by an observer from the RAF Mildenhall-based 3rd Air Force — is the second for Richards after a hearing earlier in the year ended in a hung jury.

There are no Air Force personnel being called to testify in the current trial, according to 3rd Air Force spokesman Maj. John Haynes.

The proceeding comes less than a week after a jury cleared two Oxford peace activists of charges that they tried to sabotage B-52 bombers on the same night by lodging nuts and bolts in the plane’s turbines.

Toby Olditch, 38, and Philip Pritchard, 36, argued successfully they were acting to prevent the planes from continuing on with their mission to Iraq, according to a report in The Guardian.

The three are part of an organized campaign against U.S. forces in England, which also has broken onto a U.S. Air Force installation in eastern England, where the vast majority of Americans are stationed.

Last October, eight British campaigners were arrested for breaking onto RAF Lakenheath and chaining themselves to a fence.

The eight are due to stand trial at Sudbury Magistrates’ Court next month on charges of criminal trespassing.

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