Eve and Nashua Stand Trial in Columbus, Georgia and Celebrate Victory for SOA Watch!
On Thursday morning, Eve Tetaz and Nashua Chantal stood trial before US District Judge Stephen Hyles in Columbus, Georgia. The prosecution called for Eve, an 83 year-old retired public school teacher and longtime peace activist, and Nashua, a 62 year-old longtime SOA Watch activist, to be incarcerated for the six-month maximum for illegal entry onto Ft. Benning on November 23, 2014. Ft. Benning is home of the School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001 (SOA/WHINSEC).
During their sentencing by judge Stephen Hyles, the courtroom, as well as the JAG attorneys were surprised when Nashua was sentenced to a 5 year probation, and Eve was sentenced to a $5,000 fine. Neither of them was sentenced to prison, something that judge Hyles has been notorious for imposing on nonviolent activists since beginning his tenure in 2010. Represented by Anna Lellelid and Bill Quigley, of the SOA Watch Legal Collective, Eve and Nashua were accompanied by Fr. Roy, Coleman Smith of the Pupetistas, SOA Watch Council Member Ken Hayes, Irene Rodriguez of the SOA Watch Communications Collective, Anton Flores of Georgia Detention Watch/AlternCommunity, members of Nashua's community in Americus, and SOA Watch Field Organizer Maria Luisa Rosal.
During the press conference before entering the courtroom, Anna Lellelid stated, "Eve is planning to plea not guilty. Nashua crossed over a fence, and he was protesting the violations of human rights committed by graduates of the School of the Americas, and he will be peading guilty, and hoping to serve community service with Habitat for Humanity in his community and continue to serve the people that he loves." Bill Quigley stated, "We hope we are going to be walking out with both of these people today."
During their trial, both Eve and Nashua addressed the court and spoke truth to power, highlighting the horrors of the School of the Americas:
Nashua stated, "I did cross the fence to protest the human rights violations in Latin America. I am totally supportive of the work of School of the Americas Watch, particularly the work to release the names of the gradautes. If they are proud of the school, they should be proud of their graduates." After pleading guilty and requesting community service instead of prison, Nashua also said, "I have made my point. I have stood up for human rights."
Similarly, Eve put the SOA on trial, as well as a US culture of militarism when she affirmed, "torture is not a political tool. My own President asks 'is this who we are?'. All of us would like to say no, but if the School of the Americas is kept open, then I am afraid the answer is yes. This is who we are."
Thursday's trial was a victory for the SOA Watch movement. Through their actions, Eve and Nashua continued to denounce the SOA, and in doing so, were still able to walk out of a courtroom that has historically seen harsh prison sentences handed down to others within the movement that have crossed the line in the past. To date, over 300 people have collectively served over 100 years of prison sentences for their nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to call attention to the SOA/WHINSEC. SOA Watch maintains that those responsible for the SOA torture manuals and for the training of repressive foreign militaries, are the ones who should stand trial and be held accountable. Nashua and Eve are to be commended for speaking truth to power. They continue the long tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Our work to close the SOA and to change oppressive US foreign policy towards Latin America continues. In the face of more violence against our brothers and sisters in Latin America - the 43 disappeared students in Ayotzinapa, the continued violence and repression in Honduras, the impunity in Guatemala - we continue to organize and to come up with creative forms of resistance.
La lucha sigue, the struggle continues.