Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Priests face prison to expose torture -- A call to the media!

By Brenda Norrell

Two priests facing prison to expose torture, Fr. Louis Vitale and Fr. Steven Kelly, returned to federal court in Tucson on Friday. The U.S. is attempting to silence the priests and prevent them from exposing the role of the United States in torture, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Hopefully, news reporters around the world will not let this happen. The priests were arrested at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona, as they knelt in prayer. They were there to deliver a letter opposing the U.S. role in torture, specifically Fort Huachuca's role in torture at Abu-Ghraib. Information already presented shows that at least six people died in U.S. custody while being tortured by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Further, Fort Huachuca was the site where the U.S. torture manuals were produced for the training of Latin military leaders, that resulted in the torture, rape, murder and disappearance of masses of Indigenous Peoples in Central and South America for decades, until those manuals were made public in 1996. Fr. Vitale and Fr. Kelly are willing to go to prison for the truth to be known to the world.

September 22, 2007 Contact in Tucson: Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa


Fr. Louis Vitale, one of two Roman Catholic priests arrested at Fort Huachuca, Arizona while protesting torture last November, appeared in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Arizona for a pretrial release hearing. At the September 21 hearing, Magistrate Estrada restated his earlier order that defendants Fr. Vitale and Fr. Stephen Kelly not break any federal, state or local laws before their trial, which he originally gave when the pair had refused to sign onto the conditions of release at their April arraignment. Estrada criticized Fr. Vitale's participation in and resulting citation for an August 9 line crossing at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, noting that if Vitale were imprisoned elsewhere or facing new charges when this pending trial begins, it would greatly complicate his case and inconvenience both attorneys, possible witnesses, and the court. Estrada also expressed his interest in keeping pretrial defendants out of jail and more readily available to meet with their attorney to prepare their defense. Bill Quigley, attorney for Fr. Vitale, told the court that because Fr. Vitale's sister is in grave health in California, and Vitale has committed to be with her during the next few weeks before his October 17 trial, the priest would agree not to be arrested at a federal military or nuclear installation during that time, to restrict his travel to California and Arizona unless the court agrees otherwise, and to report any law enforcement contact immediately. The court then imposed these further restrictions, which were signed by Fr. Vitale. Because the court had granted the prosecution motion in limine earlier in September, effectively gutting their defense, Quigley then told the court that on October 17 both priests are willing to consider a change of plea from "not guilty" to "nolo contendere" (no contest), with the desire that verdict and sentencing would proceed immediately. However, military prosecutor Capt. Evan Seamone told the court that it is a complicated matter, and that federal procedure states he "may not consent to a plea of nolo contendere except in the most unusual circumstances" and with the approval of a senior Justice Department official. Consultation with defense attorney Quigley had still not identified such circumstances, Seamone told the court. Magistrate Estrada encouraged both sides to continue pursuing the question, and offered his assistance if necessary to help expedite matters before the scheduled trial. Trial for Frs. Vitale and Kelly is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. October 17 before Magistrate Estrada in Courtroom 3A of the Federal Courthouse at 405 W. Congress St., Tucson.

For more information, visit http://tortureontrial.org/

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008: www.earthcycles.net/
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