World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


“Terrorism Enhancements” Unneccessary, Excessive

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 5, 2007

National Lawyers Guild Calls “Terrorism Enhancements” Unneccessary, Excessive, And Chilling To Free Speech

New York. The National Lawyers Guild calls the terrorism sentencing enhancement issued to Daniel McGowan yesterday an unnecessary and excessive government tactic to discourage the exercise of free speech. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken sentenced McGowan to seven years in prison, calling one of the fires an act of terrorism because of a communication issued after the first that referred to potential legislation aimed at activists (which would indicate an attempt to influence the government). McGowan was one of four defendants who plead guilty with the understanding that they would not implicate others who took part in similar actions.

Ten activists plead guilty to committing property crimes—most of which were arsons—that carry average sentences ranging from 5-8 years in prison. The terrorism enhancement, Section 3A1.4 of federal Sentencing Guidelines, can add 20 years to each of the sentences laid out in the plea agreements. Formal sentencing began on May 22 and continued through today.

National Lawyers Guild Executive Director Heidi Boghosian says, “Is this what a terrorist is? Applying terrorism enhancement to property crimes where the perpetrators went out of their way to minimize the risk to human life makes little sense as a matter of law or common sense. Americans know the different between Daniel McGowan and Osama bin Laden, and this effort to subvert the fairness of the judicial system is an affront to the values they hold dear.”

In January the Guild wrote to Judge Aiken urging her to not apply the enhancement for McGowan’s property crimes:

"As an organization that has frequently defended the First Amendment rights of individuals and causes disfavored by the government, in the past 70 years, the National Lawyers Guild is deeply troubled by the government’s application of terrorism sentencing enhancements to environmental activists. Many of our members are criminal defense attorneys, and many have seen firsthand the chilling effect the government has on unpopular views, from the House Un-American Activities Committee to the present-day labeling by the FBI of environmental and animal rights activists as a top “domestic terrorism” priority. The use of a terrorism enhancement in this case effectively punishes an act of arson more harshly on the basis of the viewpoint that motivates it; as such, we believe that it is intended to crack down on environmental activism more generally, by raising the fear that any misstep could lead to prosecution as a terrorist."

If the enhanced penalties suggest discrimination based on a particular viewpoint or ideology, it should be noted that they are not necessary: even without them the crimes to which many environmental activists have plead guilty carry significant prison time. The National Lawyers Guild believes that criminal acts must be punished according to the penal law, and that the law as applied to this case carries sufficient penalties.

Founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated national bar association, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States, with more than 200 chapters. The Guild has a long history of representing individuals whose rights have been violated by governments in the U.S. and abroad.

###

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:


Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

Boris Johnson’s exit from the contest for Conservative Party leadership supports the conspiracy theory that he never really expected the “Leave” option to win the referendum – and he has no intention now of picking up the poisoned chalice that managing the outcome will entail... More>>

ALSO:

Mexico: Violence And Repression Of Teachers

The member organizations of Network for Peace express our indignation over the acts of repression that the Mexican State has carried out, through the police forces... In Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca, the conflict has resulted in murders of teachers and civilians as well as hundreds of wounded and dozens of people arrested. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Britain's Pleas For Mercy

So… Boris Johnson is promising that he won't be holding a snap general election, if he's chosen as the next UK Conservative Party leader. Reportedly, he is even making that promise a feature of his leadership campaign, since a vote for Boris would therefore mean (wink wink) that his colleagues wouldn't have to risk their jobs and face the wrath of the British public until 2020. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news