For Immediate Release
Twenty-Four Anti-Torture Activists Acquitted in Trial for Protest at the US CapitolCalling for Guantanamo's Closure and the Investigation of Deaths at the Prison
WASHINGTON - On Monday, June 14, twenty-four activists with
Witness Against Torture were acquitted in Washington, D.C. Superior
Court of charges of “unlawful entry with disorderly conduct.” The
charges stemmed from demonstrations at the US Capitol on January 21,2010
- the date by which President Obama had promised the closure of the
Guantanamo detention camp.
“With his decision, the judge validated the effort of the demonstrators
to condemn the ongoing crime of indefinite detention at Guantanamo,”says
Bill Quigley, legal adviser to the defendants and the Legal Director of
the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“Our acquittal is a victory for free speech and for the right of
Americans to stand up for those falsely imprisoned and abused at
Guantanamo,” says Ellen Graves, one of the defendants. “We tried to
shine a light on the unconstitutional policies of the Bush and now the
Obama administrations. That light shone brightly today.”
“We will use our freedom to continue to work for the day when Guantanamo
is closed and those who designed and carried out torture policies are
held to account,” says defendant Paul Thorson.
On January 21, activists 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, March2010, Harpers).
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.