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Judge acquits Greta Thunberg after London climate protest

Published February 2, 2024last updated February 2, 2024

A judge has thrown out the case against Greta Thunberg seeking a public order offense after a protest at a London oil and gas conference last year. He found the Swedish climate activist had no case to answer.

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, centre, speaks to the media at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.
Thunberg was accused of failing to comply with police orders to protest in a designated areaImage: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/picture alliance

Greta Thunberg was acquitted at the Westminster Magistrates' Court on Friday of a single charge under the UK's Public Order Act

The case was tied to a protest outside an oil and gas conference last year by the 21-year-old Thunberg, who has become internationally recognizable in the years since she began protesting outside Sweden's parliament on Fridays as a schoolgirl. 

Thunberg and four others, aged between 19 and 59, were accused of failing to comply with a police order to move their protest to a designated area near the conference. 

Why the case was thrown out

The viewing gallery erupted in clapping as District Judge John Law said he was dismissing the case.

He said there were "significant deficiencies in the evidence" presented against Thunberg and the others. 

Law said police could have taken less restrictive measures, didn't properly define where protesters should move, and that the order to disperse given to protesters was "so unclear that it was unlawful."

The judge also said he would grant defense lawyer Raj Chada's request for the government to pay his legal fees and for Thunberg's travel expenses to be compensated.

Thunberg was exposed to a maximum fine of 2,500 pounds ($3,177 or €2,932) in the case.

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, left, poses for the media as she arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.
Thunberg wore a Palestinian keffiyeh shawl to the central London court on both days, having drawn attention in recent months for various demonstrations of support for PalestiniansImage: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/picture alliance

What Thunberg said in the hearing

The original incident took place at the Energy Intelligence Forum at a London hotel on October 17, 2023. 

In court on Monday, Thunberg had noted how she and other climate activists were facing various prosecutions around the world and asked, "Who are our laws meant to protect?"

Thunberg has also faced minor legal trouble in Sweden. 

Last summer, she was fined by a Swedish court for disobeying police and blocking traffic during an environmental protest at an oil facility, her second such fine.

German police once forcibly removed Thunberg from a protest near the face of a large coal mine, but that did not lead to prosecution.

Greenpeace UK campaigner Maja Darlington hailed Friday's verdict as "a victory for the right to protest." 

msh/nm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)