Trials Begin in Georgia for 32 Human Rights Advocates Print
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Columbus, GA ? The week after a military jury in Colorado decided not to jail an Army interrogator even after they found him guilty of negligent homicide in the torture and killing of an Iraqi detainee, a federal judge in Columbus, Georgia is sentencing nonviolent activists to federal prison.

This morning, Judge G. Mallon Faricloth sentenced nine human rights advocates, including Delmar Schwaller, an 81-year-old retired man, to between one and six months in prison; eight of those individuals were also fined between $500 and $1,000. Twenty-one people still face charges, and trials continue. Each person faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The 32 defendants, ranging in age from 19 to 81, are charged with trespass after peacefully walking onto the Fort Benning military base in protest of a controversial Army training school located there. Those arrested were among 19,000 who gathered in November of 2005 outside the gates of Fort Benning to demand a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy and the closure of the controversial U.S. Army?s School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation (SOA/ WHINSEC).

?I have written hundreds of letters to the editor, met with many U.S. officials, and helped to found three human rights organizations,? said defendant Gail Phares, 66, of North Carolina, on the steps of the U.S. Courthouse this morning. ?In my 40 years of experience in Latin America, I've witnessed a number of patterns repeated over and over which trace death, torture and suffering back to troops trained in counter-insurgency warfare by the U.S. military, many of whom were trained at the School of the Americas.?

The SOA/ WHINSEC made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the facility has ever taken place. New research confirms that the school continues to support known human rights abusers. Despite having been investigated by the United Nations for ordering the shooting of 16 indigenous peasants in El Salvador, Col. Francisco del Cid Diaz returned to SOA/ WHINSEC in 2003.

Judge Faircloth is known for handing down stiff sentences to opponents of the SOA/ WHINSEC. Since protests against the SOA/ WHINSEC began more than a decade ago, 183 people have served a total of over 81 years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school.

The movement to close the SOA/ WHINSEC continues to grow. In 2005, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced HR 1217, a bill to suspend operations at WHINSEC and to investigate the development and use of the ?torture manuals.? The bill currently has 123 bipartisan co-sponsors.

?People speaking out for justice and accountability will most likely be sent to prison this week,? said Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, ?while the SOA and its graduates continue to operate outside a system of real accountability.?

Adjudicated Defendants, as of 4 pm on Jan 30
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Sentenced to one month in prison:
Anika Cunningham, 26, Bowling Green, Ohio (and $500 fine)

Sentenced to two months in prison:
Joanne Cowan, 56, Boulder, Colorado (no fine)
Sam Foster, 70, Minneapolis, Minnesota (and $500 fine)
Michael Gayman, 26, Davenport, Iowa (and $500 fine)
Judith Ruland, 47, Springfield, Massachusetts (and $500 fine)
Delmar Schwaller, 81, Appleton, Wisconsin (no fine)

Sentenced to three months in prison:
Buddy Bell, 23, Chicago, Illinois (and $500 fine)
Fred Brancel, 79, Madison, Wisconsin (and $500 fine)
Robert Call, 72, Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey (no fine)
Scott Dempsky, 30, Denmark, Wisconsin (and $500 fine)
Joe DeRaymond, 55, Freemansburg, Pennsylvania (and $500 fine)
Robin Lloyd, 67, Burlington, Vermont ($500 fine)
Donte Smith, 19, Washington, DC (and $500 fine)

Sentenced to six months in prison:
Jane Hosking, 37, Luck, Wisconsin (and $1,000 fine)
John LaForge, 41, Luck, Wisconsin (and $1,000 fine)
Fr. Louis Vitale, 73, San Francisco, California

Sentenced to time served (after 70+ days in county jail):
Priscilla Treska, 66, Cleveland, Ohio (no fine)

Convicted last week, awaiting sentencing:
Charles Carney, 47, Kansas City, Kansas

Defendants Awaiting Trial, as of 4 pm on Jan 30
(listed in order of state)

Sarah Harper, 36, Emeryville, California
Dorothy Parker, 76, Chico, California
Cheryl Sommers, 68, Berkeley, California
David Sylvester, 54, Oakland, California
Ken Crowley, Washington, DC
Fr. Jerome Zawada, 68, Cedar Lake, Indiana
Rita Hohenshell, 81, Des Moines, Iowa
Stephen Clemens, 55, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jamie Walters, 41, Columbia, Missouri
Frank Woolever, 72, Syracuse, New York
Linda Mashburn, 63, Brevard, North Carolina
Gail Phares, 66, Raleigh, North Carolina
Edward "Naed" Smith, 38, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch, 69, Oak Ridge, Tennessee