A London judge acquits climate activist Greta Thunberg of refusing to leave oil industry conference

LONDON (AP) — Climate activist Greta Thunberg was acquitted Friday of a charge of refusing to follow a police order to leave a protest blocking the entrance to a major oil and gas industry conference in London last year.

The courtroom gallery erupted with applause as Judge John Law told Thunberg and her four co-defendants to stand and told them they were cleared of the criminal charge of breaching the Public Order Act. The judge cited “significant deficiencies in the evidence” presented by the prosecutor.

Law said the police could have applied less restrictive measures and didn’t properly define where protesters should move, while their order to disperse was “so unclear that it was unlawful.” Individuals who did not comply therefore committed no offense, according to the judge..

Law also granted defense lawyer Raj Chada’s request for the government to pay legal fees and Thunberg’s travel costs once the bills are submitted. She had faced a fine of up to 2,500 pounds ($3,190) if convicted in Westminster Magistrates’ Court of violating the act that allows police to impose limits on public assemblies.

“The conditions imposed on the protest were unclear, uncertain and unlawful,” Chada said outside court. “The government should stop prosecuting peaceful protesters, and instead find ways to tackle the climate crisis.”

The Oct. 17 protest was one of many in the U.K. against fossil fuel producers that have led to criminal charges. Some demonstrations have disrupted sporting events, caused massive traffic jams or created shocking spectacles to draw attention to the climate crisis.

But the judge noted that the demonstration attended by Thunberg, 21, was “peaceful, civilized and nonviolent.”

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