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17 Fort Benning protesters enter guilty pleas

Monday, January 27th 2003

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Seventeen protesters arrested at Fort Benning last fall pleaded guilty Monday to trespassing during a demonstration against the fort's training school for Latin American soldiers.

U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Mallon Faircloth sentenced one defendant to six months in prison and six others to three months. Ten defendants got one year probation and one - Thomas Cleary of Richmond, Va., - will serve six months of home confinement.

Another Virginian, Dave Depp of Doswell, received 12 months probation, 250 hours of community service and a $500 fine.

In all 85 protesters - including a Roman Catholic priest, eight nuns and several veterans - were arrested during the Nov. 17 demonstration at the Army post in west central Georgia.

Three pleaded guilty last year to trespassing. The judge sentenced two of them to probation and the third to 90 days in jail. Two others, including a man who drove onto the post accidentally, were not prosecuted.

Two college students accused of cutting a gate lock pleaded guilty to destruction of government property last week and are awaiting sentencing.
Thirty-five others are scheduled to appear before Faircloth on Feb. 10.

A group known as SOA Watch holds annual demonstrations outside Fort Benning to commemorate the Nov. 16, 1989, killings of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador. Some graduates of the Army's former School of the Americas were linked to that killing.

The school moved to Fort Benning from Panama in 1984. It was transferred to the Defense Department in 2000 and renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, with mandatory human rights courses.

Protest leaders vow to continue the demonstrations until the new school closes. Military officials strongly deny that the School of the Americas or its successor was is responsible for abuses.

On the Net:
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation: http://www.benning.army.mil/whinsec/
School of the Americas Watch: http://www.soaw.org/

LOAD-DATE: January 28, 2003


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