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Lawyers Guild Denounces Diaz Sentencing

May 24, 2007

The National Lawyers Guild Denounces Diaz Sentencing

New York. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) deplores the conviction and sentencing of Lt. Commander Matthew Diaz for disclosing the names of those imprisoned at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We applaud Diaz for his courage. In releasing information that should have been public, under domestic and international law, he exercised sound legal and moral judgment.

“History books will look back on this administration’s practice of secret detention and torture –illegal under the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act of 1996—as a dark stain on our constitution and the rule of law,” said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild. “The Guild hopes that more members of the military will join the ranks of Lt. Diaz, for they are true heroes and national patriots.”

The NLG believes that the trial and sentencing of Lt. Cmdr. Diaz is an attempt to silence whistleblowers and would-be critics who would shed light on the illegality of Guantánamo Bay. The legal basis for the case is flimsy; the political motivations for seeking his conviction, at a time when soldiers and the American population are turning against an Administration that condones torture and continues a losing war, are strong.

Says Paul Wright, NLG Vice President and editor of Prison Legal News: “The imprisonment of Mr. Diaz is part of the ongoing purge of military officers who have protested or attempted to stand up to the litany of human rights abuses at the Guantánamo Bay concentration camp. This includes Chaplain Yee, unjustly prosecuted after speaking out about abuses of detainees, and the military attorneys who have been expelled for successfully defending their clients in court.”

Diaz, a soldier and also a lawyer, and he says that his actions were motivated by the belief that they were required by the law, including the Geneva Conventions that protect captured soldiers during wartime. The NLG agrees with Diaz that the government acted illegally in classifying this information in the first place. We do not believe that the government has any legal basis in prosecuting an officer for disclosing information that was never legitimately classified in the first place. Rather than being criminal, Diaz’s actions ultimately brought the United States into compliance on this one point of law.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated bar association in the United States. As during the "McCarthy era," the Guild's 6,000 members and activists remain committed to defending the rights of those who speak out against unconstitutional government practices and policies.


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