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80 Activists On Trial for SOA Civil Disobedience

School of the Americas Watch

January 16, 2002
Contact: Matthew Smucker 202.903.7257,

80 Human Rights Activists to Begin Federal Trial for Civil Disobedience to Close the School of the Americas

**Interviews with Defendants Available**

NEWS CONFERENCE Tuesday, January 21, 10:30AM In front of the Federal Courthouse 120 12th St., Columbus, GA

Columbus, GA ­ The first two of 80 human rights advocates facing federal charges for civil disobedience to close the School of the Americas will start trial next Tuesday, January 21, in Columbus, Georgia. The 80 were among 10,000 who gathered in November to call for the closure of the SOA, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The defendants peacefully crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the school. They are charged with trespass and face up to six months in federal prison and $5,000 in fines.

Two defendants' trials are scheduled to begin on January 21 before Judge Clay Lands in Columbus. These two face additional charges and up to 18 months in prison. Approximately half of the remaining defendants are scheduled for trial starting January 27, and the other half are scheduled for February 10. These defendants will appear before Judge G. Mallon Faircloth.

Judge Faircloth is known for giving the maximum of six months to opponents of the SOA/WHISC. Nearly one hundred people have served a total of over fifty years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in a broad-based campaign to close the school.

“Those who speak out for justice are facing prison time 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 a new report Amnesty International calls for a suspension of training at the SOA/WHISC, and an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the school. Amnesty refutes the claim that the WHISC is a new institution, stating that WHISC "is essentially the same school as SOA, with the same primary missionŠ”

“The SOA is out of alignment with both the interests and values of the American people,” said Dan Fortson, a veteran from Redway, CA, one of the 80, “We’re here to say ŒNot in our name!’”

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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