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Activists renew Blair trial appeal

Activists have marked the 10th anniversary of the huge protests against war in Iraq by renewing their call for Tony Blair to be put on trial over the UK's involvement in the conflict.

More than a million people took to the streets on February 15 2003, in a massive show of anti-war sentiment, with thousands not even reaching a rally in London's Hyde Park because of the numbers taking part.

Organisers of the demonstration said up to two million took part, and believe it did make a difference to Government policy, adding that Tony Blair's promotion of war was "shameful".

The main anniversary event is a Stop The War Coalition conference on Saturday, with speakers from Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States, as well as the UK, who will say that the warnings of millions of people a decade ago have been "horribly vindicated".

Lindsey German, convenor of the coalition, who helped to organise the London protest 10 years ago, said it was an "absolute travesty of democracy" that the UK went ahead with the war, saying: "We believe that two million people, from all walks of life, took part in the demonstration.

"We ran out of coaches to bring people to London - a fleet of taxis had to be hired in Preston - so we knew that feelings against the war were sky high.

"It was one of those very rare moments when people genuinely believed they could make a difference, so it was shameful that Blair ignored the protests and went ahead with his war.

"He has got away with it but I would still like to see him brought to court.

"It is an absolute travesty to democracy that the war went ahead, and the MPs who voted in favour should be ashamed of themselves."

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament agreed, saying: "He should be tried for war crimes.

"CND put together a very strong legal case, but the buck has always been passed beyond him."

Ms Hudson said numbers on the protest 10 years ago were boosted when the Government and the authorities tried to stop the march ending at Hyde Park, saying it could damage the grass.

"There was an unstoppable desire that the demonstration was going to be held because a huge amount was at stake in trying to stop the war," she said.

"I felt sad that we did not stop the war, but from the strength of feeling it could not have been more clear that Tony Blair was at odds with society.

"His government was at odds with the population.

"Tony Blair persisted in his claims about the imminent danger presented by Iraq and about the evidence of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

"We said at the time that there was no evidence and we were right.

"Even the US shortly thereafter had to declare an end to the search for WMD in Iraq.

"Yet Blair has consistently dodged responsibility for the trumped-up charges and the illegal war.

"We have seen a number of inquiries that have passed the buck away from the former prime minister.

"But he cannot escape from the consequences of his actions.

"He is pursued by protesters who will not let his guilt be washed away by time."

Organisers of the Ten Years On conference on Saturday said it was shaping up to be one of the most important anti-war events of the last few years, taking place during the threat of new interventions abroad.

The global demonstrations on February 15 2003 were considered to be the biggest protests in history.

No-one has been able to come up with a historic precedent, but researchers estimate there were demonstrations in at least 800 cities around the world, involving millions of people.

Up to one million Australians marched, three million in Rome, 1.5 million in Madrid, 45,000 in Switzerland and 100,000 in Norway.

Of those who took part in the London demonstration, studies have suggested that 54% were women, 11% under the age of 24, and 11% over 65.

The research showed that managers made up 6% of the crowd, office and manual workers 20% and students 20%, while 45% had previously been on a peace protest.

The Stop the War Coalition was founded in 2001 to protest against military intervention in Afghanistan proposed by the United States and its allies.

A host of political and cultural events will be held to mark the anniversary, ranging from meetings and marches to theatre productions.

On February 15 - the actual anniversary of the anti-war demo - a protest will be made opposite Downing Street in London under the banner: Stop Western Intervention in Syria - No Interventions in the Middle East or Africa.

Stop The War said the war on terror was in danger of spreading once again, with continuing threats of increased intervention in Syria, the ongoing war in Mali and a possible attack on Iran.

"Ten years on, we are still living with the consequences of the Iraq war," said one activist.

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