NDE Logo Nevada Desert Experience  
 
Home Issues Programs & Events Get Involved History of NDE Newsletters Abous NDE
   
   
 
   
- Ft. Huachuca Torture Protest Update -

A news update on NDE co-founder and board member, Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM.

For more in-depth coverage, please visit: http://tortureontrial.org
Priest Escape Jail Before Torture Trial by Bill Quigley, attorney

Heated hearing on priests' trespassing case held in Tucson
The Herald - Sierra Vista

After hearing, group protests near fort
The Herald - Sierra Vista

Two Catholic priests may go to prison over torture protest
Tucson Citizen

NEWS RELEASE
from the Nuclear Resister newsletter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2007
Contact in Tucson:
Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa 520-323-8697

FT. HUACHUCA TORTURE PROTEST PRETRIAL CONTINUED FOR ORAL ARGUMENTS IN AUGUST
A pretrial hearing today for two Roman Catholic priests arrested during a demonstration at Ft. Huachuca last November has been continued until August 13, when U.S. Magistrate Hector Estrada will hear oral arguments on multiple motions. The defendants were ordered to be present for the hearing. No date for trial has been set.

The two are charged with federal trespass and an Arizona state charge of failure to comply with a police officer following their attempt to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at Fort Huachuca, on November 19, 2006.

Among the issues to be considered at the August pretrial hearing are the prosecution motion in limine, seeking to restrict defense testimony by excluding any reference to the issues that sparked the protest. The court is also still considering the defense request for a jury trial.



MEDIA ADVISORY from the Nuclear Resister newsletter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2007

Contact in Tucson:
Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa 520-323-8697

Ft. Huachuca Protest Trial Postponed; Defendant Priests Ordered to Attend Pretrial Hearing Instead

The June 6 trial in U.S. District Court, Tucson, for two Roman Catholic priests arrested at a protest last November at Fort Huachuca has been postponed. Instead, Fr. Louis Vitale and Fr. Stephen Kelly have been ordered to appear at 9 a.m. that same day in U.S. Magistrate Hector Estrada's court for a hearing on pretrial motions.

Supporters of the priests will join them at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 6, for a brief morning support rally in the courtyard in front of the U.S. District Court, 405 W. Congress St.

It is anticipated that military prosecutor Capt. Evan Simone may reintroduce a motion to have the priests jailed pending trial, for which a new date will be set at the June 6 hearing. The two are charged with federal trespass and an Arizona state charge of failure to comply with a police officer following their attempt to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at Fort Huachuca, on November 19, 2006.

On Tuesday, June 5, supporters are invited to join the defendants and others for a Festival of Hope for a future free from the terror and injustice of torture. The Festival of Hope begins at 6 p.m. at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. 3rd St., Tucson. A potluck meal in Geneva Hall will be followed by a 7 p.m. program in the church sanctuary. Speakers at the Festival of Hope will include torture survivor Orlando Tizon, (Assistant Director, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International), human rights attorney William Quigley (Loyola University, New Orleans), retired U.S. Army Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, and defendants Fr. Louis Vitale and Fr. Stephen Kelly. Music will be provided by San Francisco cultural worker Francisco Herrera and Tucson musician Ted Warmbrand.

The defendants and all of the speakers will be available for media interviews in midtown Tucson on Tuesday afternoon, June 5. Please call 323-8697 for arrangements.

For more information, visit http://TortureOnTrial.org

BIOGRAPHIES:
Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM
With a background in sociology and a focus on the Sociology of Religion and social movements, Louie is a long time social activist. A Franciscan priest who served as the provincial of the California Franciscan Friars from 1979 to 1988, he co-founded the Nevada Desert Experience and its enduring movement to end nuclear testing. He recently completed twelve years as the pastor of St. Boniface Catholic Church in a low-income neighborhood in San Francisco, California. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In 2006, Louie completed a six month sentence for his nonviolent action to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC at Ft. Benning, GA in 2006. He is currently the "Action Advocate" for Pace e Bene and is involved in trying to raise awareness about issues of torture and U.S. involvement in it.

Fr. Stephen Kelly, SJ
Fr. Kelly is a Jesuit priest who worked with the Jesuit Refugee service in Central America for many years. He has spent time in federal prison for nonviolent direct disarmament actions. These "Plowshares" actions have brought him into contact with many in prisons who have suffered under U.S. hegemonic policies. In an attempt to dedicate himself to conversion of nuclear weapons in the Isaiah biblical prophetic vision, he sees a connection between the rationale to torture alleged enemies and the blatant incineration of civilians. In December, 2005, Kelly served as chaplain for Witness Against Torture, a delegation of over two dozen U.S. anti-torture activists who defied the U.S. embargo of Cuba with a peaceful march through that nation to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay naval base and prison camp.

Orlando Tizon
Orlando Tizon was arrested on September 21, 1982 in Davao City, in the island of Mindanao, southern Philippines, during the regime of President Marcos. At that time he was working as a community organizer and educator among the rural poor in the Philippines. During the first three weeks of his imprisonment, the military who arrested him kept him blindfolded and incommunicado in a military camp outside Davao City. He suffered beatings, endless interrogations, mock execution and solitary confinement for more than three months. On April, 1986 after the people power revolution, the Aquino government granted him amnesty and released him from prison. Soon after, he emigrated to the U.S., went for treatment and therapy and attended graduate school, later earning a doctorate in sociology.
His interests lie in the issues concerning torture and political violence, race/ethnic relations, immigrants and refugees and human rights. Presently, he is the Assistant Director of the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) in Washington, D.C.

William Quigley
Bill Quigley, lawyer for Fr. Louis Vitale, is a law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill has been an active public interest lawyer since 1977. He served as counsel with a wide range of public interest organizations concerned with Katrina social justice issues, public housing, voting rights, death penalty, living wage, civil liberties, educational reform, constitutional rights and civil disobedience. Bill teaches in the Law Clinic and teaches courses in Law and Poverty and Catholic Social Teaching and Law. He has served as an advisor on human and civil rights to Human Rights Watch USA, Amnesty International USA, and served as the Chair of the Louisiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He has also been an active volunteer lawyer with School of the Americas Watch and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. In 2003, he was named the Pope Paul VI National Teacher of Peace by Pax Christi USA and is the recipient of the 2004 SALT Teaching Award presented by the Society of American Law Teachers.

Ann Wright
Col. Ann Wright (U.S. Army, Ret.) served 29 years in the military and 16 years in the diplomatic corps, including as Deputy Ambassador at four missions. Among her many posts, Ms. Wright reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in December, 2001. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. Wright now works full-time as an advocate for peace and human rights, challenging politicians and military leaders in Washington to oppose the occupation of Iraq and the Military Commissions Act. She has traveled the country speaking about and lending support to soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq. In August, 2006, she traveled to Amman, Jordan to talk with Iraqi parliamentarians about their peace plan, and participated in the Close Guantanamo delegation that traveled to Cuba in January, 2007.



NEWS RELEASE
from the Nuclear Resister newsletter
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 4, 2007
MEDIA INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE TOMORROW: Midtown Tucson,
Please call to schedule defendants Fr. Stephen Kelly and Fr. Louis
Vitale, Vitale's attorney William Quigley, Ann Wright, and Orlando
Tizon (biographies follow).

Contact in Tucson:
Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa 520-323-8697 (office), 520-603-1917 (cell)

U.S. Seeks to Muzzle Ft. Huachuca Protest Defense

A new trial date is expected to be set at the Wednesday, June
6 pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court, (405 W. Congress St.,
Tucson) for two Roman Catholic priests arrested at a protest last
November at Fort Huachuca.

Among other pretrial motions motions to be considered at the
9:00 a.m. hearing by U.S. Magistrate Hector Estrada is a government
request that the judge prohibit any testimony regarding "the morality
or immorality of the Government's use of interrogation techniques;
training of soldiers in such techniques; the legality of Operation
Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, or other operations to
support interrogations in foreign countries; the legality of the
Military Commission Act of 2006, the application of the defense of
international law; or the wisdom of any political question or
government policy as an attempt to establish the defense of
justification."

The two are charged with federal trespass and an Arizona
state charge of failure to comply with a police officer following
their attempt to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter
denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to Major
General Barbara Fast, commander at Fort Huachuca, on November 19,
2006.

Military prosecutor Capt. Evan Seamone is also expected to
reintroduce a motion to have the priests jailed pending trial.

Supporters of the priests will join them at 8:00 a.m.
Wednesday, June 6, for a brief morning support rally in the courtyard
in front of the U.S. District Court,

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 5, supporters are invited to join the
defendants and others for a Festival of Hope for a future free from
the terror and injustice of torture. The Festival of Hope begins at
6 p.m. at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. 3rd St., Tucson. A
potluck meal in Geneva Hall will be followed by a 7 p.m. program in
the church sanctuary. Speakers at the Festival of Hope will include
torture survivor Orlando Tizon, (Assistant Director, Torture
Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International), human
rights attorney William Quigley (Loyola University, New Orleans),
retired U.S. Army Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, and defendants Fr.
Louis Vitale and Fr. Stephen Kelly. Music will be provided by San
Francisco cultural worker Francisco Herrera and Tucson musician Ted
Warmbrand.

The defendants and all of the speakers will be available for
media interviews in midtown Tucson on Tuesday afternoon, June 5.
Please call 323-8697 for arrangements.

For more information, visit http://TortureOnTrial.org

BIOGRAPHIES:
Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM
With a background in sociology and a focus on the Sociology
of Religion and social movements, Louie is a long time social
activist. A Franciscan priest who served as the provincial of the
California Franciscan Friars from 1979 to 1988, he co-founded the
Nevada Desert Experience and its enduring movement to end nuclear
testing. He recently completed twelve years as the pastor of St.
Boniface Catholic Church in a low-income neighborhood in San
Francisco, California. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at the
University of California, Los Angeles.
In 2006, Louie completed a six month sentence for his
nonviolent action to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC at Ft.
Benning, GA in 2006. He is currently the "Action Advocate" for Pace e
Bene and is involved in trying to raise awareness about issues of
torture and U.S. involvement in it.

Fr. Stephen Kelly, SJ
Fr. Kelly is a Jesuit priest who worked with the Jesuit
Refugee service in Central America for many years. He has spent time
in federal prison for nonviolent direct disarmament actions. These
"Plowshares" actions have brought him into contact with many in
prisons who have suffered under U.S. hegemonic policies. In an
attempt to dedicate himself to conversion of nuclear weapons in the
Isaiah biblical prophetic vision, he sees a connection between the
rationale to torture alleged enemies and the blatant incineration of
civilians. In December, 2005, Kelly served as chaplain for Witness
Against Torture, a delegation of over two dozen U.S. anti-torture
activists who defied the U.S. embargo of Cuba with a peaceful march
through that nation to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay naval base and
prison camp.

Orlando Tizon
Orlando Tizon was arrested on September 21, 1982 in Davao
City, in the island of Mindanao, southern Philippines, during the
regime of President Marcos. At that time he was working as a
community organizer and educator among the rural poor in the
Philippines. During the first three weeks of his imprisonment, the
military who arrested him kept him blindfolded and incommunicado in a
military camp outside Davao City. He suffered beatings, endless
interrogations, mock execution and solitary confinement for more than
three months. On April, 1986 after the people power revolution, the
Aquino government granted him amnesty and released him from prison.
Soon after, he emigrated to the U.S., went for treatment and therapy
and attended graduate school, later earning a doctorate in sociology.
His interests lie in the issues concerning torture and
political violence, race/ethnic relations, immigrants and refugees
and human rights. Presently, he is the Assistant Director of the
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International
(TASSC) in Washington, D.C.

William Quigley
Bill Quigley, lawyer for Fr. Louis Vitale, is a law professor
and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center
at Loyola University New Orleans. Bill has been an active public
interest lawyer since 1977. He served as counsel with a wide range
of public interest organizations concerned with Katrina social
justice issues, public housing, voting rights, death penalty, living
wage, civil liberties, educational reform, constitutional rights and
civil disobedience. Bill teaches in the Law Clinic and teaches
courses in Law and Poverty and Catholic Social Teaching and Law. He
has served as an advisor on human and civil rights to Human Rights
Watch USA, Amnesty International USA, and served as the Chair of the
Louisiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
He has also been an active volunteer lawyer with School of the
Americas Watch and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
In 2003, he was named the Pope Paul VI National Teacher of Peace by
Pax Christi USA and is the recipient of the 2004 SALT Teaching Award
presented by the Society of American Law Teachers.

Ann Wright
Col. Ann Wright (U.S. Army, Ret.) served 29 years in the
military and 16 years in the diplomatic corps, including as Deputy
Ambassador at four missions. Among her many posts, Ms. Wright
reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in December, 2001. She resigned in
March, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. Wright now works full-time
as an advocate for peace and human rights, challenging politicians
and military leaders in Washington to oppose the occupation of Iraq
and the Military Commissions Act. She has traveled the country
speaking about and lending support to soldiers who refuse to fight in
Iraq. In August, 2006, she traveled to Amman, Jordan to talk with
Iraqi parliamentarians about their peace plan, and participated in
the Close Guantanamo delegation that traveled to Cuba in January,
2007.



MEDIA ADVISORY

For immediate release
May 9, 2007

For more information, contact
Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa (520)323-8697

TORTURE ON TRIAL

JUNE 6 TRIAL DATE SET FOR PRIESTS ARRESTED AT NOVEMBER
ANTI-TORTURE PROTEST
AND RELATED UPCOMING EVENTS

On Wednesday, June 6, Fr. Louis Vitale and Fr. Stephen Kelly will stand trial in U.S. District Court, 405 W.Congress St., Tucson, Arizona. They are charged with
trespass and failure to obey an officer's orders for their nonviolent action on November 19, 2006 at Ft. Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The two men attempted to speak with enlisted personnel and give a letter condemning torture to the post commander of Ft.
Huachuca. The two priests each face a maximum sentence of 10 months in prison.

Fr. Vitale and Fr. Kelly will give several talks in mid-May entitled "Torture on Trial". They will speak about the U.S. role in torture, Fort Huachuca and U.S. interrogation tactics, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the School of the Americas and their upcoming trial. The talks, sponsored by Pace e Bene and SOA Watch, will take place on May 15, 16 and 17.

On May 15, the pair will speak to students at Brophy High School in Phoenix, AZ.

On May 16, their talk will be held at 7 p.m. at the Franciscan Renewal Center,

5802 E. Lincoln Dr., Scottsdale, AZ.
On May 17, the program will take place at Southside Presbyterian Church, 317 W. 23rd, Tucson, AZ with a 6:30 pm potluck and 7:30 pm talk.

On Tuesday, June 5, the eve of the trial, Tucson supporters will host a Festival of Hope starting at 6 p.m. at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. 3rd St., Tucson, AZ. Please join Frs. Vitale and Kelly, lawyer Bill Quigley and others in a celebration of
hope for a future free of the terror and injustice of torture and war. The evening will include talks, testimony of victims of torture, music, food and fellowship.

Fr. Louis Vitale, a Franciscan priest, is an Action Advocate for Pace e Bene, co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience and SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience.

Fr. Stephen Kelly, a Jesuit priest, has served time in prison for his participation in several Plowshares direct disarmament actions. In December, 2005, he served as chaplain for Witness to Torture, a delegation which marched through Cuba to the gates of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Please visit http://tortureontrial.org for updated information about the trial and related events, and
also for background on the case, or email torture.training.on.trial@gmail.com or call 520-323-8697.



Tucson SOA Watch
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2007
For more information, contact Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa, 520-323-8697

U.S. District Court Magistrate Hector Estrada Tuesday refused to grant a military prosecutor's repeated plea to jail two Roman Catholic priests, each with a long record of nonviolent protest and subsequent imprisonment, pending their trial for trespass last fall at Fort Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Estrada set trials to begin in Tucson on June 4 for Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly and June 6 for Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale. It is expected that the cases will be consolidated, and the men will be tried together that week.

About thirty supporters attended the morning hearing, where Army Capt. and military prosecutor Mikel J. Weir asked Magistrate Estrada to consider Kelly's and Vitale's long history of protest and arrest, including serious crimes, and their reported public statements to continue such protests, and also to note Fort Huachuca's role as the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, pilotless drone operation, etc.

"Did they damage any property?" Estrada asked. "Was anyone injured?" "No" replied Weir, twice.

Vitale's attorney, Loyola University-New Orleans law professor Bill Quigley, told the court there was no reason to grant the government's motion, because the men's actions were nonviolent and they do not pose a flight risk, having returned to Arizona now twice voluntarily for court dates since their arrest.

Kelly and Vitale both refused to sign standard release agreements promising to commit no crimes while free pending trial, but the judge simply declared that it was his order, whether they signed or not.

Both defendants found or created the occasion to address the court about motivations above the law, such as acting for justice, and in good conscience, in the face of official crimes like wars of aggression and torture.

Military prosecutor Weir resubmitted his motion to jail the priests, citing these comments in court, but the Magistrate held firm over Weir's objection.

In addition to the federal charge of trespass (18 USC 1382), the June trial will incorporate prosecution of both men on the additional Arizona state charge of "Failure to Comply with Police Officer" (ARS 28-622), under terms of the Federal Assimilative Crimes Act.

Because the maximum possible prison sentence on both charges is ten months, the priests will request a jury trial.

The priests were arrested near the Fort Huachuca gatehouse last November 19, as they sought entry to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post and a key figure in the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Supporters will host a series of public events around the time of the trial to raise awareness of Fort Huachuca's role in military intelligence training that fosters torture.

Jack & Felice Cohen-Joppa
POB 43383
Tucson, AZ 85733
voice/fax: (520)323-8697
email: nukeresister@igc.org


NEWS RELEASE
Tucson SOA Watch
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2007
Contact in Tucson: Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa 520-323-8697

PRE-TRIAL DETENTION THREAT FOR TWO PRIESTS IN FT. HUACHUCA TORTURE PROTEST
Military prosecutors have told advisory counsel to two Catholic priests that the government will seek pre-trial detention for their nonviolent protest arrest last November 19 at Fort Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly will be arraigned Tuesday, April 3, 8:30 a.m. at the U.S. District Court, 6th floor, 405 W. Congress St., Tucson, Arizona.

Among the reasons given for asking the court that the two men be jailed until trial are the defendants' extensive history of arrests, press accounts, and the likelihood that they will not stop protesting or risking jail for protests while awaiting trial.

The two men were arrested when they sought entry to the base to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post.

They were part of a group of 120 people protesting outside the Fort that day against military intelligence training that fosters torture. The men were issued citations for trespass (USC 18-1382) and released.

In February, the two returned to Arizona for arraignment on the charge. Instead, a procedural hearing at Fort Huachuca resulted only in a new citation for both men, on an Arizona charge of "Failure to Comply with Police Officer" (ARS 28-622). If found guilty of both charges, Kelly and Vitale face a maximum sentence of ten months in prison.

Supporters will join with the two men in front of the courthouse at 7:45 a.m. on April 3 to share thoughts and prayers before going inside for the arraignment.


March 26, 2007 Lawyer Bill Quigley, representing Louie Vitale, said that the Jag Captains Evan Seamone and Ryan Wardle were seeking pre-trial detention for Roman Catholic priests Louie Vitale and Steve Kelly. The JAG officers argued that the men had a history of criminal activity and the expectation was that they might "do something" while awaiting trial.

Steve and Louie were arrested at Fort Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizona, protesting that day against military intelligence training at the fort that fosters torture on November 19, 2006.


Priests Face Added Charge for Ft. Huachuca Torture Protest
Two Catholic priests arrested during a protest at Fort Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizona, have been notified that in addition to a federal charge of trespass (USC 18-1382), they will be prosecuted under Arizona law for "Failure to Comply with Police Officer" (ARS 28-622).

Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly intended to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post, when they were arrested while approaching the gate last November 19.

They were part of a group of 120 people protesting that day against military intelligence training at the fort that fosters torture.

The men were cited for trespass and released. Later, they were summoned to appear for arraignment February 13 in Greeley Hall on the grounds of Fort Huachuca.

When the priests and five supporters arrived at the fort, they were escorted by several armed men into a room in the basement of Greeley Hall. Capt. Evan Simone, acting on behalf of the U.S. attorney's office, told Vitale and Kelly, who are representing themselves, that they would not in fact be arraigned. Instead, Simone was only there to discuss a plea agreement.

The two priests believe they are guilty of no crime, and declined any pretrial agreements.

Before they departed, Vitale and Kelly were each issued the second violation notice under the state stature. If found guilty of both charges, they face a maximum sentence of ten months in prison.

Arraignment is rescheduled for Tuesday, April 3, 8:30 a.m. at the U.S. District Court, 405 W. Congress St., Tucson, Arizona.
Jack & Felice Cohen-Joppa
POB 43383
Tucson, AZ 85733
voice/fax: (520)323-8697
email: nukeresister@igc.org



Two Priests Arrested as 120 Join Ft. Huachuca Torture Protest
November 19, 2006
Contact: Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa: 520-323-8697
As more than 120 people gathered at the gate of Fort Huachuca today to protest military intelligence training there that fosters torture, two Roman Catholic priests were arrested when they tried to enter the base, located in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly intended to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post, denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Major General Fast is the highest ranking intelligence officer tied to the torture at Abu Ghraib torture, yet she has never been punished. Two soldiers with ties to Fort Huachuca are among 28 implicated earlier this year in the beating deaths of two prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002.

Today's demonstration took place in conjunction with the annual vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia, where over 20,000 people vigiled today and at least 14 were arrested as they called for closing the infamous School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).

Dozens of Latin American military leaders who trained at the "School of Assassins" have since been convicted of torture, murder, and other heinous crimes in their own countries. Frs. Vitale and Kelly walked into the base but were stopped as they approached the gatehouse. An officer from the base offered to deliver their letter to the Commander, but the priests persisted, because they also intended to speak with the service men and women receiving interrogation training at Fort Huachuca.

When they were not allowed to pass, the two men knelt in prayer and were arrested. They both received a federal citation for trespass and were released without conditions, and told they should be contacted within 45 days with a court date.

Fr. Louie Vitale is a member of Pace e Bene, whose mission is "to develop the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence as a way of living and being and as a process for cultural transformation." Fr. Vitale is also a co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based organization that has opposed nuclear weapons testing for a quarter of a century. Fr. Vitale recently served six months in jail following his arrest at the Ft. Benning vigil in November, 2005, and was ejected from congressional hearings in September after speaking out against the Military Commissions Act.

Fr. Steve Kelly is a member of the Redwood City Catholic Worker community and has served time in federal prison for the nonviolent direct disarmament of nuclear weapon delivery systems. In December, 2005, Kelly served as chaplain for Witness to Torture, a delegation of over two dozen U.S. anti-torture activists who defied the U.S. embargo of Cuba with a peaceful march through that nation to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay navel base and prison camp.

The text of the letter delivered to the base commander follows:
To: Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast -
We are here today as concerned U.S. people, veterans and clergy, to speak with enlisted personnel about the illegality and immorality of torture according to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.

We condemn torture as a dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators, resulting in humiliation, disability and even death. In addition to the hundreds of detainees who have died, we are also concerned about U.S. military personnel. Alyssa Peterson committed suicide after participating in the torture of Iraqi prisoners. Lynndie England and others have been imprisoned for their illegal activities.

We are here today at Ft. Huachuca in solidarity with tens of thousands of people at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft. Benning, Georgia (formerly known as the School of the Americas) to say that the training of torturers must immediately stop. Nothing justifies the inhumane treatment of our fellow brothers and sisters. Torture by U.S. military personnel has reached alarming proportions and has horrified people around the world.

We are convinced that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is unconstitutional. We totally reject its conclusions. Torture is a useless and unreliable tool that leads to an accepted practice of terrorization and the rationalization of wrongdoing.

We are here today to repent and clearly state that because of our sense of moral and human decency we condemn torture. NOT IN OUR NAME.

Signed this 19th day of November, 2006 -

Louis Vitale,OFM
Steve Kelly, SJ


 
 
 

| home | issues | programs & events | get involved | history | newsletter | about us |

©2009 Nevada Desert Experience