Friday, December 7, 2007

Torture on Trial: Peace Activists declared 'danger to community'

December 6, 2007
By Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa

TUCSON JUDGE DENIES BAIL; DECLARES TWO WHO PROTEST TORTURE "...A DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY"

TUCSON -- At a detention hearing today in federal court in Tucson, Betsy Lamb, a retired Catholic lay leader, and Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada were jailed without bail until their trial. Lamb, Zawada and Mary Burton Riseley were arrested on November 18 at Fort Huachuca, home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School, during a protest of military use of torture against war detainees. Magistrate Hector Estrada was concerned by evidence that both Lamb and Zawada had failed to heed an order of the court in cases pending in other jurisdictions. Betsy Lamb is awaiting trial for a September anti-war protest outside the office of Rep. Greg Walden, in Bend, Oregon. As a standard condition of release on her own recognizance, Lamb had promised not to commit any other crime while awaiting trial. Fr. Zawada has an outstanding bench warrant for failure to appear for a court date in Washington, D.C., where he has been arrested several times in recent years for anti-war protest. Army Prosecutor Capt. Evan Seamone came to court with three witnesses in dress uniform, several poster-sized photo enlargements and a videotape of the arrests. But the magistrate said he already knew the defendants' intent, and would only listen to Seamone's summation. Seamone described the defendants' peaceful passage through police barricades at the gate of Fort Huachuca as a violent act because it had to be met by police, who were forced to go face to face with the unarmed protesters and lift them from a kneeling position. In the eyes of the law and legal precedent, Seamone argued that such violent trespass warranted pretrial detention for the safety of the community. Were the court to release Zawada and Lamb, "their blatant defiance is likely to happen again" Seamone warned, gravely predicting that "all kinds of chaos" would ensue at the gate to Fort Huachuca. Attorney Rachel Wilson, representing the defendants, objected repeatedly without success to Seamone's arguments. Wilson told the court that Ms. Lamb had "learned her lesson" and was willing to post bond along with her promise to return to court for trial. Estrada was unmoved. He told the defendants he didn't trust them and that he believed they were right where they wanted to be - before him in chains. Protest is brinksmanship, and the point is to not be arrested; better to organize a conference or seminar, he chided. Estrada then ordered that Lamb and Zawada be kept in custody until their February 4 trial because they "remain a flight risk, and are a danger to the community." Not even Capt. Seamone had suggested that the defendants were a "flight risk". Responding to the court's conclusion, Felice Cohen-Joppa said of her friends, "Betsy Lamb and Jerry Zawada are not a danger to the community - they, along with Mary Burton Riseley, are the conscience of the community. They are shining a light on the involvement of military intelligence in torture around the world. Their nonviolent acts are no more a danger to the community than were the nonviolent acts of Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Jr." Lamb and Zawada are not the only people now in prison for peaceful protest of U.S. torture practices. On October 17, Magistrate Estrada sent Frs. Steve Kelly and Louie Vitale to prison for five months in prison for a similar protest at Fort Huachuca in November, 2006. They are scheduled to be released in mid-March.
For more information, visit tortureontrial.org

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