Four Green MEPs were arrested on February 20 after breaking into a Belgian military airbase to protest against the presence of US nuclear weapons on European soil.

Three of the MEPs, Molly Scott Cato, Michèle Rivasi and Tilly Metz unfolded a banner on a runway for F-16 fighter jets at the Kleine Brogel base in Eastern Belgium and demanded that a national dialogue take place about the presence of nuclear arms within the territorial boundaries of the EU. The incident resulted in their arrest by the Belgian authorities.

The fourth MEP in the group,Thomas Waitz, was also arrested during a demonstration outside the base, along with 11 other activists from Belgium’s Agir pour la Paix (Act for Peace) group. As MEPs, the group has the benefit of immunity from prosecution, but when state security is at stake, it is unclear whether the authorities can treat them as civilians.

According to an announcement by the MEPs, they felt the “urgent need to send out a powerful message in the current context of the INF Treaty being put into question by the American and Russian governments”.  a spokesperson for one of the group said, adding that the treaty has contributed to European security.

A press statement from the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament said that “at a time when nuclear tensions are rising on the international scene, [the MEPs] have decided to act, to alert the public and put the issue of nuclear disarmament at the heart of the European agenda. Their action is based on three demands – the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons stationed in Europe, the ratification of the Treaty of Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by all EU Member States, and the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone for Europe.”