John LaForge

Nukewatch co-director John LaForge takes part in a demonstration against U.S. nuclear weapons at Büchel Air Base in Germany.

(Photo: Nukewatch)

John LaForge Set to Be First US Activist Jailed in Germany for Anti-Nuke Protests

More than a dozen German anti-nuclear activists and one Dutch campaigner have also been jailed in Germany for protesting U.S. hydrogen bombs housed at Büchel Air Base.

As Russia's invasion and NATO's support of Ukraine have heightened nuclear tensions in Europe to their highest level since the Cold War, a Wisconsin peace activist is set to become the first American jailed in Germany for an anti-nuclear protest.

John LaForge, the 66-year-old co-director of Nukewatch, was convicted in December 2021 by the Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany on two charges of trespassing in connection with two 2018 protests against U.S. nuclear weapons at Büchel Air Base near Cochem. LaForge has been ordered to serve 50 days behind bars at JVA Billwerder prison in Hamburg and was also fined €600 ($633).

During one of the demonstrations, LaForge and other activists entered the base, and climbed a bunker likely housing B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs.

LaForge has refused to pay the fine and has appealed his convictions to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

In an opinion piece published last month by Common Dreams, LaForge noted that the $28 million-per-bomb, variable-yield B61—whose military value U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chair Gen. James Cartwright admitted is "practically nil"—"has 24 to 40 times the destructive power of the U.S. bomb that killed 170,000 people at Hiroshima in 1945."

As Beyond Nuclear International points out, Büchel Air Base and six other facilities in Europe each house at least 20 B61s "under a controversial U.S./NATO program known as 'nuclear sharing.' The U.S. Air Force's 702nd Munitions Support Squadron maintains the U.S. bombs in readiness for German PA 200 Tornado jet fighter/bomber crews."

Writing for Counterpunch last year, LaForge asserted that "NATO's cold-blooded 'strategic' preparation for meaningless, genocidal atomic violence is cosmetically presented in defensive, sanctimonious, antiseptic language depicting hydrogen bombs as reasonable, measured, protective security blankets. This is a childishly naïve mindset that the wargamers promote but do not share."

The Nuclear Register reports:

In the appeal, LaForge argues that both the District Court in Cochem and the Regional Court in Koblenz erred by refusing to consider his defense of "crime prevention," thereby violating his right to present a defense. Both courts ruled against hearing from expert witnesses who had volunteered to explain the international treaties that prohibit any planning for mass destruction. In addition, the appeal argues, Germany's stationing of the U.S. nuclear weapons is a violation of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which explicitly forbids any transfer of nuclear weapons between countries that are parties to the treaty, including both the U.S. and Germany. The appeal also argues that the practice of "nuclear deterrence" is an ongoing criminal conspiracy to commit vast, disproportionate, and indiscriminate destruction using the U.S. hydrogen bombs stationed at Büchel.

More than a dozen German activists and Dutch anti-nuclear campaigner Frits ter Kuile have been jailed for Büchel protests.

At the peak of the anti-nuclear movement during the Cold War's perilous closing decade, hundreds of thousands and even over a million demonstrators would turn out to protests in then-West Germany.

Nukewatch will host a "jail sendoff" for LaForge via Zoom on Thursday, January 5 at 7:00 pm Central European Time, which is 1:00 pm U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

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