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Day Four – Waihopai Ploughshares Trial

Day Four – Waihopai Ploughshares Trial


By Letitia - Indymedia Ireland

The day began with Adi Leason under continued cross examination from the Crown. The prosecutor set about seeking admission from Adi that the action was not about stopping the satellite dishes from working thus slowing the pace of the war in Iraq but merely symbolic. Otherwise, why hadn't the three defendants slashed the second dome?

Adi replied that it was both a real effort to interfere in the war efforts of the base and also it was a highly symbolic action. It was both and, not either or.

The Crown continued to probe around this issue for some time but Adi made the point emphatically that both foci were in his lenses as he proceeded with the action.

The Crown then sought to ascertain who the leader of the group was. "Someone must have had the idea first", he said, "Who was it?"

"Isaiah" said Adi, sending the Court into laughter. As the laughter subsided, the judge noted dryly that Isaiah was not on trial, then added "Perhaps he should be!" It was a lovely light moment.

The crown really failed to hear or understand Adi's case, and went on to suggest the damage done to the base was an act of violence. Mr Marshall suggested that it was 'little violence' as compared to 'big violence. '

Adi had been saying the principles of non-violence required the use of the minimum amount of damage to be done to property. At this point he said it wasn't about big violence v little violence at all – it was about nonviolence.

To illustrate this he produced a small piece of pounamu – greenstone, unique to New Zealand's soil – and told the recent story of this particular piece of stone. He said the stone had been given to his family by a Maori woman who stood god mother to one of his children. It was part of what had been a much larger piece given to the people of Parihaka in the 1880s by Ngai Tahu, a tribe from the South Island of New Zealand, who were helping them after devastating violent action by Crown forces taking the Parihaka land.

Adi then told the Parihaka story – a story of Crown forces moving into the settlement of several thousand Maori in November 1881 and forcibly taking the land, arresting the leaders and their followers and imprisoning them all in southern prisons for several years. Many died of the cold and hunger. The point he made was that the resistance to the violence of the Crown at that time was completely non-violent. Not one fist was thrown, not one gun fired, not one act of violence occurred to prevent the government troops arresting the people. It was Gandhian non-violence 50 years before Gandhi.

After Adi finished his testimony, Fr Peter Murnane took the stand the give his testimony.

Peter is a measured speaker, quietly spoken. He has researched in detail the issues that move him, and had a huge amount of material to present to the Court. While the judge kept a strict eye, telling Peter that everything had to pertain to Peter's mental and spiritual outlook at the time of the disarmament action, he still left plenty of room for Peter to explore relevant issues - and to reveal his passion for justice and his deep Christian faith.

After talking a little about his early years, and his vocation as a Dominican Brother, Peter started out by saying that there were four crimes that the USA was committing with assistance from Waihopai:

rendition/torture,

overthrowing legitimate governments,

waging illegal wars of aggression,

using weapons of mass destruction, especially depleted uranium.

He spent some time focusing on the process whereby the US target people for rendition. Rendition is illegal, breaking international agreements by imprisoning and torturing suspects. He spoke of more than 1000 victims, and argued that this had happened with the aid of the Echelon system, including Waihopai.

He linked this programme with the known historical practices of torture being carried out by the CIA and other agencies. He asked 'how can civilised people torture other human beings?' He talked at some length of the role of the School of the Americas training foreign soldiers for counter insurgency, including torture. He quoted from the CIA manual which allowed for torture under certain conditions.

He then introduced the story of Sister Diana Ortiz, an American nun, who was kidnapped and tortured in Guatemala in 1989. He told her story in graphic detail and of her efforts to get the US Government to take her case seriously. She was gang raped, burned 111 times with live cigarettes, and suspended over a pit full of dead and dying people. Eventually she was forced to use a machete on a dying woman. The aim was to make Sr Diana 'one like us in murdering others'. She conceived and later aborted a child from the gang rape.

Eventually she found out that one of her torturers was a CIA man and that the then US Ambassador to Guatemala was the head of the CIA operation in that country. This was at a time when two people every day were being kidnapped, tortured and killed. More often than not, they were Church people active in their communities among the poor. They were usually accused of being communists.

Peter then spoke of the six Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter who were killed by the military in El Salvador in 1988. Since they were regarded as the intellectuals behind the Salvadorean resistance to the military, their brains were spilt out over the lawn. 'You are the brains behind the drive for social justice and we will spill your brains on the lawn.' And they did. Those responsible were trained in Georgia at the school for the Americas, and were part of US military strategy. Of which Waihopai is an integral part.

His final piece for the day was the role of weapons of mass destruction, namely Depleted Uranium, and the role it has played in both Gulf Wars. He spoke of the danger of the uranium being released into the atmosphere, 'like from an aerosole can' and how it has a life of millions of years. He described graphically how saturated Iraq is now with the fallout from DU. The result has been that leukemia rates have risen by 600% and baby deformities by 300%. The legacy of the Gulf wars will remain to haunt the people for millions of years.

Peter's testimony will conclude tomorrow.

The trial continues.

- Letitia

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