1/21/03 Trial Update Print
Jeremy John and Charity Ryerson appeared in US District Court today before Judge Clay Lands. The two were charged with “trespass” and “destruction of government property” for their action in November 2002. They cut through a padlock in order to open a pedestrian gate in the fence, and then crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the SOA/WHISC.

Andy Olive and Rachel Shively had been scheduled for court today, but their charges were deferred for a year. If they do not get arrested within that time, the charges will be dropped.

Jeremy and Charity were originally facing up to 18 months in federal prison and a $100,000 fine, since they were charged with both criminal trespass and destruction of government property. They changed their initial plea of “not guilty” to “guilty” in a plea bargain agreement in which the criminal trespass charge was dropped. They now face a year in prison and the $100,000 fine. Their sentencing was postponed pending a pre-sentencing investigation.

(Forty-three more defendants will begin trial on Monday, January 27th, and 35 defendants will start trial on Monday, February 10th.)

A news conference was held following Charity and Jeremy’s court appearance. Bill Quigley, a lawyer from Loyola Law School in Louisiana who is representing many of the defendants; Gail Taylor, SOA Watch legislative director; Eloy Garcia, a Maryknoll lay missioner and defendant (trial 1/27); Marie Salupo, a Maryknoll missioner and defendant (trial 1/27); and Charity and Jeremy all spoke at the conference. Following are excerpts from Eloy, Charity, Jeremy and Marie’s statements.

Eloy Garcia:

“It is documented that the school trains soldiers who in effect become terrorists who oppress and terrorize their own civilian populations throughout the world in order to protect the interest of American multinational corporations and the local elites who do their bidding. Amnesty International recently released a report on the “Human Rights Dimensions of US training of foreign Military and Police Forces.” This document reviews the record of US training in countries such as Colombia, Indonesia and Rwanda where military forces have committed serious human rights violations and documents the secrecy and lack of oversight around US foreign military and police training. The document also states that the SOA name change does not absolve the US government for past human rights violations perpetuated by the SOA.

“We also need to bring to the public’s attention that SOA/WHISC at Ft. Benning is one part of a vast training network, which promotes terrorist acts against civilian populations under the moniker of Low Intensity Conflict/ Counter Insurgency. At this time the US trains at least 100,000 foreign police and soldiers from more than 150 countries each year. Approximately 275 known US military schools and installations provide training to foreign soldiers and the US trains many more soldiers in their own nations, but exact numbers are classified.

“If President Bush is serious about the war on terrorism the issue of US military involvement in the training of soldiers who commit terrorist acts against their own civilian populations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia must be addressed, and we will continue our actions until there is an end to the killing and oppression.”

Charity Ryerson:

“Our acts of civil disobedience focused on the SOA/WHISC as a prime example of US funded human rights abuses and as a vehicle for the economic oppression of developing nations. This economic oppression can be seen most clearly through our support of the sweatshop system, our greed for cheap oil, and the debt burden we impose on struggling countries. US trained troops are used against labor by putting down strikes and violently opposing unions. The same countries that are crippled by low wages also feel the devastating effects of World Bank and IMF policies, which take advantage of desperation. These economic policies require very high military involvement to prevent uprisings. In order to feed its already outrageous demand for oil, in Columbia, US trained troops are protecting an Occidental Petroleum oil pipeline. The US has been using the drug war in Columbia as a false pretext to protect corporate interests. Just as they attempted to overthrow a democratically elected president in Venezuela recently, the SOA/WHISC is interfering with the democratic process of many Latin American countries and systematically perpetuating a system of economic injustice.

Jeremy John:

“Our aim is to put the SOA/WHISC on trial. When we take the SOA to trial before an international tribunal and the teachers and students are found guilty, the US will realize the sacrifice that the SOA defendants have made, holding the government accountable for the actions of the US military against people of other nations. All people, no matter what country they owe allegiance to, still have rights as a citizen of the international community. And nobody deserves to be tortured or executed even if they are working for civil rights in a military dictatorship.

“But this information about international law is not being allowed into the courtroom. How is justice to be served when the main facts are not even allowed to be discussed, when defendants are silenced and relevant information is excluded? This is not in the spirit of democracy.

Marie Salupo:

“As a U.S. citizen and a catholic I have a moral obligation and responsibility to speak the truth, to hold my homeland accountable for its actions, which I see as contradictory to the ideals of democracy and justice, and contradictory to my faith.

“People around the country and the world are rising up and will not be silenced, not even by prison walls because they are listening their deepest conscience, a voice that says that war, military aid, and training of foreign militaries who suppress their own people are not the answer.”