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Flights protest targets Prestwick
Sunday, 30 July 2006, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK |

Protesters believe the planes are transporting bombs to Israel

Demonstrators have staged a protest at Prestwick Airport against the refuelling of US flights to Israel.

About 150 people voiced their anger at the landing of planes which they believe are carrying bombs for use in the conflict in Lebanon.

Two flights carrying "hazardous" material were diverted from Prestwick to the RAF Mildenhall military base in Suffolk on Saturday evening.

There has been no official confirmation of the cargo being carried.

A spokesman for the US air force at RAF Mildenhall said the two the Atlas Air cargo flights arrived late on Saturday night. One departed on Sunday afternoon, with the other expected to follow later.

Lebanese flags

He could not comment on what was on board the planes, but said they were there to refuel and allow the crew to rest.

Sunday's protest at Prestwick was organised by the Glasgow Stop the War Coalition.

Demonstrators unfurled banners, Lebanese flags and placards before chanting peace slogans and making a series of speeches.

Police ushered protesters from the terminal building

The protest took place outside the main entrance after police ordered demonstrators to leave the terminal building.

The Strathclyde force said this had been for safety reasons, and described it as a "very orderly protest".

Glasgow-based human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar claimed that the UK Government was breaching international law by allowing bombs to pass through Prestwick.

He said: "The munitions that have been allowed to land are weapons of mass destruction being used on innocent people.

"The Americans have been landing munitions here for several months."

Dr Rashid Mohammed, who speaks for Glasgow's 100-strong Lebanese community, said: "Innocent people are getting killed by bombs of mass destruction which are coming through this airport.

"We are calling for an immediate ceasefire and a stop to what's been going on at Prestwick.

"What the Israelis are doing is not self-defence, it is the worst sort of war crime."

Civilian airport

Local Conservative MSP John Scott has joined the calls for future flights to be routed away from Prestwick.

"If the Americans wish to support Israel's policy by providing these armaments they must do so from their own military airbases," he said.

"They should not be doing so from Prestwick, which is Scotland's fastest-growing civilian airport."

About 150 people took part in the demonstration

A spokesman for Prestwick said the airport had provided support for military flights - including refuelling aircraft and providing food and water - since World War I.

It was obliged to allow any Civil Aviation Authority-registered country to land its planes there but was not "entitled or obliged" to find out what cargo was being carried on flights in transit.

"The operation of these reported flights is a matter between governments and discussions with regard to their operation takes place at a much higher level than us," the spokesman said.

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said the Irish Government had refused to allow its airports to be used as a stopover for munitions.

'Completely intolerable'

"Meanwhile, Scotland is dragged in as an unwilling accessory before the fact of violence and murder while our puppet executive of Labour and Lib Dem ministers maintains a guilt-ridden silence," he said.

"This is an extraordinary situation, which is completely intolerable and totally unacceptable."

The Scottish Green Party also congratulated Ireland for its stance.

It said First Minister Jack McConnell should "pull out all the stops" to persuade Westminster to say no to any more flights.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said it had no power over aviation policy, which was a matter for the Foreign Office.

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