An Irish journalist tried to execute a dramatic citizen’s arrest of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair over alleged “war crimes" on Monday in Brussels.
David Cronin, a Dublin man who was a press spokesperson for Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna in the 1990's, said he tried to arrest Blair in the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday afternoon as he prepared to address a committee on his work as Middle East peace envoy.
“I approached him and put my hand on his arm," Cronin told the press. "He looked towards me and I said, ‘Mr. Blair, this is a citizen’s arrest’, before I was pushed away by one of the several bodyguards surrounding him. As they pushed me, I shouted, ‘You are guilty of war crimes,’” Cronin said.
Cronin told the press his motivation in trying to arrest Blair was entirely based on his contempt for the "crimes" Blair has committed and abetted in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon and Serbia.
Cronin said he was inspired by the Arrest Blair campaign led by environmentalist and columnist George Monbiot. The campaign’s website (www.arrestblair.org) says attempts to arrest Blair would be “largely symbolic” but would have great political resonance. “It was an entirely peaceful attempt to arrest him. I wasn’t trying to harm the guy,” Cronin said.
English law allows anyone to try and arrest someone they know has committed a crime when it is not practical for the police to do so. In Belgian law however the concept of the citizens arrest is rarely employed.
On Monday Cronin remained in the parliament building but was later refused access to the room where Blair spoke. “When I was on my way out of the building I was followed by three security guards and one of them asked to see my press badge. He took my name.”
Cronin worked for then Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna between 1995 and 1998. He was a member of the Green Party in the early 1990s but withdrew his membership in 1994.
Cronin now works for the news agency Inter Press Service and is a contributor to the Guardian newspaper’s website. He has also contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the Sunday Tribune and for five years was political correspondent for the European Voice, a specialist publication owned by the Economist.
It is the second time that Blair's bodyguards have had to step in to protect the former Prime Minister in six months.
In October of last year Blair was touring a West Bank mosque when he was assailed by a young Palestinian who accused him of being a terrorist.
“He is not welcome in the land of Palestine," the man shouted before he was dragged away by Palestinian security forces.