Twenty-Seven to Go on Trial for Protesting the Obama Administration’s Failure to Close Guantanamo, Plan for Indefinite Detention, and Refusal to Prosecute Torture

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Jeremy Varon: M: 732-979-3119 varon@aol.com
Helen Schietinger: M: 202-344-5762
h.schietinger@verizon.net

Twenty-Seven to Go on Trial for Protesting the Obama Administration’s Failure to Close Guantanamo, Plan for Indefinite Detention, and Refusal to Prosecute Torture

WASHINGTON - On Monday, June 14 twenty-seven will face trial
stemming from arrests at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2010 — the
date by which President Obama had promised the closure of the
Guantanamo detention camp. The human rights activists will hold a
press conference outside the courthouse defending their protest,
condemning the Obama administration’s continuation of Bush policies,
and explaining their use in court of the “necessity defense.” The
press conference will be held Monday, June 14th at 8:30 am, across
from the Federal District Courthouse (333 Constitution Avenue, NW).

On January 21, twenty-seven people dressed as Guantanamo prisoners
were arrested on the steps of the Capitol holding banners reading
“Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” Inside the Capitol
Rotunda, at the location where deceased presidents lie in state,
fourteen activists were arrested performing a memorial service for
three men who died at Guantanamo in 2006. Initially reported as
suicides, the deaths may have been — as recent evidence suggests — the
result of the men being tortured to death (see Scott Horton, “Murders
at Guantanamo, March 2010, Harpers).

“The continued operation of the prison camp at Guantanamo is
unacceptable,” Matthew W. Daloisio of Witness Against Torture. “If
Guantanamo was a foreign policy liability and stain on the rule of law
on day one of the Obama presidency, it surely is eighteen months
later.”

“The deaths at Guantanamo show how barbaric US policies have been,”
says Helen Schietinger, a defendant in the trial. “We are still
waiting for accountability for those who designed and carried out
torture policies under President Bush. Obama can’t restore the rule
of law if he doesn’t enforce the law.”

The human rights activists plan to mount a “necessity defense” before
Judge Russell Canan. “We will be arguing that we broke the law only
after exhausting all legal means of opposing a much larger crime—the
indefinite detention, mistreatment, and torture of men at Guantanamo
and other US prisons,” says Jerica Arents of Chicago, Illinois,
another the defendants.

The January protests were the culmination of a twelve-day fast for
justice and an end to torture organized by Witness Against Torture in
Washington, DC. More than 100 people participated in the fast and
daily actions throughout the nation’s Capital.

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Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked to Guantanamo to visit the prisoners and condemn torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action. For the first 100 days of the Obama administration, the group held a daily vigil at the White House, encouraging the new President to uphold his commitments to shut down Guantanamo.

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