LONDON Six activists from environmental group Greenpeace were cleared by a court on Wednesday of causing criminal damage when they closed down a coal-fired power station in Kent last year in a climate change protest.
The six scaled the chimney of the Kingsnorth power station and painted "Gordon" on it in large letters, calling on Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to allow new coal plants to be built without the technology to capture their carbon emissions.
They had intended to pain the slogan "Gordon bin it" but were prevented from doing so when they were served with a high court injunction while still up the 200 metre-tall stack.
Owner E.ON wants to redevelop the plant without carbon capture technology but has offered to leave space for it to be fitted when it becomes commercially available.
The six were cleared by a jury at Maidstone Crown Court of causing 30,000 pounds of criminal damage to the plant after the judge said he would accept a majority verdict, the Press Association news agency said.
Scientists say the carbon gases from burning fossil fuel for power and transport are a major factor in causing global warming.
Experts told the court Kingsnorth emits 20,000 tonnes of carbon a day.
Greenpeace said the court decision was a blow to the government's energy policy which includes new coal and nuclear power plants.
"This verdict marks a tipping point for the climate change movement," said Ben Stewart, one of the six.
"If jurors from the heart of Middle England say it's legitimate for a direct action group to shut down a coal-fired power station because of the harm it does to our planet, then where does that leave government energy policy?
"We have the clean technologies at hand to power our economy, it's time we turned to them instead of coal."
(Reporting by Jeremy Lovell; editing by Steve Addison)