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Home News Press Releases School of the Americas Civil Disobedience Trial: Ex-SOA Instructor to Testify for the Defense
School of the Americas Civil Disobedience Trial: Ex-SOA Instructor to Testify for the Defense PDF Print E-mail
Columbus, GA ? Major Joseph Blair plans to testify for the defense in a civil disobedience trial today. After serving twenty years in the U.S. Army, including two tours in Vietnam and twelve years as a Latin American Military Specialist, Major Blair was an instructor at the School of the Americas (SOA) for three years. Blair has spoken out against the SOA (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Thirty-seven human rights activists are being tried in federal court this week for peacefully crossing onto Ft. Benning, site of the school. Peter Gelderoos, one of the 37 defendants, will request of Judge G. Mallon Faircloth this morning to call Blair as an expert witness.

The ?SOA 37? were among 10,000 who gathered last November to call for the closure of the notorious SOA/WHISC. The defendants are charged with trespassing, and face up to six months in federal prison and $5,000 in fines.

Judge Faircloth is known for giving the maximum of six months to opponents of the SOA/WHISC. Seventy-one people have served a total of over forty years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school. Last year 26 people were prosecuted, including Dorothy Hennessey, an 88 year-old Franciscan nun who was sentenced to six months in federal prison.

?Those who speak out for justice are facing harsh prison sentences while SOA-trained torturers and assassins are operating with impunity,? said SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion and execution. In December 2000 Congress authorized the WHISC to replace the SOA. The renaming of the school was widely viewed as an attempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its reputation. SOA Watch maintains that the underlying purpose of the school, to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by aiding and influencing Latin American militaries, remains the same.

SOA Watch works to stand in solidarity with people of Latin America, to change oppressive US foreign policy, and to close the SOA/WHISC.

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