Tacoma, Washington – October 8, 2010
Joan Staples blesses the 5 going into court. Photographer Leonard Eiger
– The five plowshares activists who entered the U.S. Navy’s nuclear weapons storage depot in Washington State in November 2009 had their initial day in court.
Over eleven months since they entered the U.S. Navy’s nuclear weapons storage depot at Bangor, Washington to symbolically disarm the nuclear weapons stored there, the five Disarm Now Plowshares co-defendants faced arraignment on October 8, 2010 in U.S. District Court, Tacoma, Washington before Magistrate Judge Karen L. Strombom.
Anne Montgomery, RSCJ, Steve Kelly, SJ, Lynne Greenwald, Bill “Bix” Bichsel, SJ, and Susan Crane were all present to enter their pleas before Judge Strombom.
The government brought many serious charges against each of the Disarm Now defendants for their peaceful November 2, 2009 Plowshares action. They include Conspiracy, Trespass, Destruction of Property on a Naval Installation and Depredation of Government Property.
The major consequences for the various individual charges range between 5 and 10 years in prison, and from $50, 000 to $250,000 in fines, as well as up to 3 years of supervised release, and/or up to 5 years probation.
Additionally, the judge made it clear that should the defendants be convicted on multiple charges, the court could order them to serve consecutive sentences, thereby greatly increasing the number of years they might spend in prison.
All defendants entered pleas of “not guilty”, to which each defendant added a personal statement.
Greenwald called “for the end of all wars, and an end to the threat of nuclear war.” Crane made “a plea for the abolition of nuclear weapons, for the children of future generations.”
Bichsel made his plea “for those who are dying now because of nuclear weapons because of funding going for weapons of mass destruction instead of health care, education, housing, employment and nutrition. I plea for those dying because of the uranium mining cycle connected to nuclear weapons.”
Crane tried twice to enter a “Motion To Immediately Dismiss Charges and Memo in Support”. The judge said that she would not hear it, and could not rule on it in these proceedings. After the arraignment, Crane filed the motion for dismissal, and two others, with the clerk of court.
In their motion for dismissal the co-defendants conclude that, “Because this case involves unjust and illegal weapons of mass destruction, the use of which is a war crime under US and international law, and defendants actions were taken to protect a greater good and much higher law than the laws they are accused of violating, this case should be dismissed immediately.”
They cite numerous laws to show that the Use of Nuclear Weapons is a War Crime under US Law, and state that “Any threat or use [of nuclear weapons] is categorically prohibited and constitutes a war crime, crime against humanity or genocide as defined consistently by the U.S. Criminal Code,” citing the statute for war crimes, 18 USC 2441.
They also reference Article 23 of the Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907, which applies because nuclear weapons are incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants and cause unnecessary suffering.
The Nuremberg Principles, 59 Stat 1544, clearly state that war crimes are committed by anyone who “participates in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of planning preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurance.”
Their last reference used to substantiate that the use of nuclear weapons is a crime under U.S. law is 18 USC 1091, which states that “the use of nuclear weapons can also be considered genocide because the weapons destroy, in whole or substantial part, groups of people, in indiscriminate fashion, killing military and civilian alike.
The five Disarm Now co-defendants firmly believe that there is sufficient legal doctrine substantiating their invocation of the necessity defense, and that the “Defendants’ actions are just and not at all illegal,” and therefore the case should be immediately dismissed.
During the arraignment all of the Disarm Now defendants stated that they look forward to the opportunity to discuss the illegality of our nation’s production, maintenance and preparations for the use of nuclear weapons during their upcoming trial.
Before the arraignment approximately 80 Disarm Now supporters gathered in front of the Tacoma courthouse to stand vigil, hand out leaflets about Disarm Now and participate in an interfaith service to bless the Disarm Now co-defendants.
The judge set a trial date for December 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM in the United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Tacoma. A pre-trial conference date is set for November 22, 2010.
There have been more than 100 Plowshares Nuclear Resistance Actions worldwide since 1980. Plowshares actions are taken from Isaiah 2:4 in Old Testament (Hebrew) scripture of the Christian Bible, “God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many people. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not take up swords against nations, nor will they train for war anymore.”
The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles west of Seattle, is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2000 nuclear warheads. In November 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council declared that the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal. The Bangor base houses more nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.
The base has been rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system. Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb) and costs approximately $60 million. The D-5 missile can also be armed with the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead. The Trident fleet at Bangor deploys both the 455 kiloton W-88 warhead and the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead
Contact: Leonard Eiger, 425-445-2190, firstname.lastname@example.org
Filed under: Press Releases | Tagged: abolish nuclear weapons, active nonviolence, Anne Montgomery, Bill Bichsel, Disarm Now Plowshares, illegal nuclear weapons, Lynne Greenwald, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, nonviolent action, Steve Kelly, Susan Crane, Trident Submarines | 2 Comments »