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European rights court says UK protestors didn't receive fair trial

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled Tuesday that two British activists found guilty in the UK of libel against fast food chain McDonald's [corporate website] did not have a fair trial and were deprived of their freedom of expression. Helen Steel and David Morris were subject to the longest trial in English legal history for accusing McDonald's of starving the Third World, destroying rainforests and selling unhealthy food. Steel and Morris appealed the British verdict to the European Court, arguing that they were forced to represent themselves [JURIST report] during the trial, which prevented them from receiving a fair trial required under the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text]. In its Tuesday ruling [text - DOC; ECHR press release], the European Court said that the denial of state legal aid "deprived them of the opportunity to present their case effectively before the court and contributed to an unacceptable inequality of arms with McDonald's." Britain was ordered to pay Steel and Morris $45,400 and to offer a retrial. Reuters has more.

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