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Greenpeace 'Star Wars' Activists Await Bail Hearing
Published on Tuesday, August 28, 2001 in the Independent/UK
Greenpeace 'Star Wars' Activists Await Bail Hearing
by Steve Boggan
 
Three Britons awaiting trial in America for interfering with a "Star Wars" ballistic missile test will learn on Wednesday if they can return home on bail.

Until now, Steve Morgan, a freelance photographer from Somerset, and two Greenpeace activists have been told they must stay in California while prosecutors build a case against them. If found guilty of the charges ­ conspiracy to violate the test zone and conspiracy to violate the order of a military officer ­ they face up to six years in prison.

The men were arrested with 14 others during a demonstration at Vandenberg air force base on July 14. Fifteen activists attempted to delay the launch of a missile by riding inflatable boats into the test area. The missile was later shot down by an interceptor missile over Micronesia. The US military has since admitted the intercepted missile had been fitted with a homing beacon.

In spite of the fact that Mr Morgan, 44, and a Spanish videographer were carrying press identification as observers, they were held on the same charges and spent a week in prison, making two court appearances in handcuffs and shackles, until granted bail.

Tomorrow lawyers for an Australian Greenpeace activist, Stuart Lennox, arrested during the same incident, will apply for the lifting of his travel restrictions, allowing him to return home until the trial, which is expected to begin on 25 September.

Louise Edge, a Greenpeace International spokeswoman, said: "We will be watching that hearing very closely because it would mean so much for these people to get home to their families. It has been a terrible two months for them. They simply came to demonstrate against something that we believe will start a new nuclear arms race, and they end up like this ­ facing six years in jail."

Mr Morgan, a former photographer for The Independent, had been hired by Greenpeace to record the demonstration. He said: "It would be lovely to go home instead of waiting and worrying here. I couldn't believe they didn't release me once it was established that I was there simply as an observer.

"I think they wanted to make a statement for journalists to watch out. People are talking about it becoming a First Amendment [freedom of speech] issue."

The other Britons are Bill Nandris, 32, a Greenpeace warehouseman from north London, and Jon Wills, 27, a marine geography graduate from Guernsey.

© 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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