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RAF MILDENHALL, England — Two anti-war protesters who broke into an air base in England and damaged American equipment to delay Air Force bombers at the start of the Iraq war were convicted in the incident by a British jury Friday.

Margaret Jones and Paul Milling used hammers and bolt cutters to disable fuel tankers and trailers in March 2003 at RAF Fairford in western England. They were both charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage and aggravated trespass.

Jones, 57, and Milling, 61, said their actions were an attempt to prevent the killing of innocents during the “shock and awe” phase of the war, according to published reports, and that they were trying to delay the takeoff of bombers.

Milling was given a 250-pound fine — about $500 — and a discharge from jail that is contingent on him not committing any more crimes. He also received an order of forfeiture and destruction of the tools that he used in the incident, officials say. Jones’ sentencing has been delayed until July 27.

According to reports, it took the jury about three hours to reach a verdict.

The damage done to instrument panels for three tankers and the cutting of brake cables for 15 bomb-carrying trailers is estimated to have cost about 10,000 pounds, or $20,000, according to reports.

Milling said Tuesday he doesn’t want his actions to be seen as a gesture against military personnel.

“I have a lot of respect for the British and American servicemembers,” he said. “It’s the politicians who send them there that I have a problem with.”

Milling also said he doesn’t regret what he did to stand against what he views as an illegal war.

“Even if I had been given a sentence of imprisonment, I would do it all again,” Milling said.

RAF Fairford is largely a staging base for Air Force bombers.

The convictions of Jones, a lecturer in Bristol, and Milling, a former magistrate, were the first the government has secured after six trials and two hung juries against the so-called “Fairford Five,” a group of English activists who broke onto Fairford in early 2003 to alter bombing efforts in Iraq.

Last month, Josh Richards was cleared of similar charges after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his case for the second time.

In May, Toby Olditch and Philip Pritchard were cleared of conspiring to sabotage U.S. bombers in connection with a March 2003 incident in which they tried to lodge nuts and bolts into a plane’s turbines.

The original trial of Olditch and Pritchard ended with a hung jury in late 2006.

Milling said that, aside from Jones, he had not met any of the other people who broke into Fairford in 2003 before the incidents.

Air Force Maj. John Haynes, a spokesman for 3rd Air Force, which oversees Fairford, said Tuesday that the unit respects the British court system and its decisions.

“We will continue to take measures as needed to ensure the safety and security of our bases,” Haynes said.

Milling said that safety of personnel was an utmost concern during his break-in, and that he and Jones placed laminated signs for airmen letting them know which equipment had been affected before they were caught.


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