Sentencing dates set for Kings Bay Plowshares nuclear abolitionists

UPDATE: Elizabeth McAlister had her sentencing on June 8 via video from her  daughter’s home in Connecticut.  The other six Kings Bay Plowshares defendants filed several continuances for their sentencing, which is now scheduled for October 15 and 16.  Because of COVID-19, they have asked for these continuances in order to be able to safely travel to Brunswick, Georgia and appear in open court with family, character witnesses and supporters present.

by Felice & Jack Cohen-Joppa, the Nuclear Resister

After delays and disputes over pre-sentencing reports followed by a court closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the seven Kings Bay Plowshares activists are due to be sentenced in separate hearings on May 28 and 29 in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia. The dates were announced on April 6, just over two years from the day the seven were arrested inside Kings Bay Naval Base while engaged in symbolic acts of nuclear disarmament.

At press time, it is not yet certain whether the defendants will appear in person or by video, whether spectators will be allowed in the courtroom or access to the proceedings by audio stream, or whether sentencing might be delayed.

The declaration of a National Emergency in mid-March led federal courts around the country to curtail business and restrict access. In southeast Georgia, the federal court put most proceedings on hold, first until April 17 and later through the end of May.

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Muslim philanthropist Dr. Rafil Dhafir released from prison after 17 years photo, 2007

by Jack Cohen-Joppa, The Nuclear Resister

On the morning of May 15, Dr. Rafil Dhafir was released to home confinement from the Allenwood federal prison in central Pennsylvania. The Iraqi-American physician and philanthropist has been in federal prison since the day of his arrest more than 17 years ago in 2003, on the eve of the second U.S. invasion of Iraq. He was not due to be paroled from his 22-year sentence until November, 2021. Dhafir will now complete that term at his home near Syracuse, New York.

A combination of factors described in the Bureau of Prisons (BoP) COVID-19 management plan added up to Rafil Dhafir’s eligibility for release now. Many of his supporters wrote to the warden following the March 26 memo from Attorney General William Barr to the Director of the BoP that outlined the plan. Dhafir is 71 years old and was being held at a low-security institution. He has a compromised immune system due to diabetes. He had no conduct violations within the last year. He had demonstrated a re-entry plan that both maximizes public safety and reduces his risk of exposure compared to continued confinement, and local authorities confirmed that he posed no danger to the community based on his crime of conviction. 

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Peacemaking in the shadow of pandemic

Patrick O’Neill with his wife Mary Rider

By Patrick O’Neill

  Blank stares. During the course of our four-day federal trial last October, that’s all I saw in the faces of our jurors in U.S. District Court in the Deep South city of Brunswick, GA. Those 12 people took so little time to convict us that it was clear they never had to deliberate. Our guilt — on three felonies and a misdemeanor count — was a foregone conclusion.
  I am among seven Catholic pacifists who were arrested April 4, 2018 on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a protest against the Trident nuclear submarines at Naval Station Kings Bay in St. Mary, GA. Five of my co-defendants and I have been out of jail under house arrest and curfew since our release on bond. Fr. Stephen Kelly, a Jesuit priest, is doing time in the Glynn County Detention Center in Brunswick, where he has been jailed since our arrest. We are worried about Fr. Kelly and the coronavirus because there is no way to practice social distancing in jail.

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Italian plowshares activist Turi Vaccaro released from Sicilian prison

Turi Vaccaro hangs his Swords into Plows banner inside the MUOS base in Sicily, December 2, 2014. Photo by Fabio d’Alessandro

After 21 months behind bars, Turi Vaccaro walked out of Sicily’s Pagliarelli prison on April 15. The 67-year-old pacifist was a fugitive from court for previous acts of nonviolent resistance to the Pentagon’s MUOS satellite relay station when police caught up with him at the annual NO MUOS peace camp in August, 2018. He was sentenced then to nearly 12 months for a December, 2014 Spade in Aratri (Swords into Plowshares) action, at which he cut the fence to enter the MUOS site, planted fig trees and grape vines, and picked up a large rock and battered electrical equipment vital to the operation of a MUOS satellite dish. While in custody, other outstanding protest charges were prosecuted and months were added to his sentence.

Vaccaro was to have been released at the end of 2019, but throughout his imprisonment he has silently refused consent to prison discipline in numerous ways, and last fall he refused to sign the forms requesting parole. A further six months were added to his sentence on January 1, pushing his expected release date out to August, 2020.

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Sentencing dates set for Kings Bay Plowshares 7

from the Kings Bay Plowshares media team, April 10, 2020

After a six month wait, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has set two May dates for sentencing the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 defendants, who were found guilty on October 24, 2019 for their nonviolent symbolic disarmament action at Kings Bay Naval Base in April 2018.

On May 28, Carmen Trotta of St. Joseph Catholic Worker in New York City, Mark Colville of the Amistad Catholic Worker in New Haven, Connecticut, and Clare Grady of the Ithaca Catholic Worker in New York, will be sentenced by the Southern District Federal Court Judge in Brunswick, Georgia.

On May 29, Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., held for the last two years in Georgia county jails, Martha Hennessy of Mary House Catholic Worker in New York City and granddaughter of Catholic Worker movement co-founder Dorothy Day, Elizabeth (Liz) McAlister of Baltimore’s Jonah House and widow of Phil Berrigan, and Patrick O’Neill of the Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker in Garner, North Carolina, will also be sentenced by the same court.

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“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else” by Kathy Kelly

3/14/18 – Fr. Steve Kelly at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, photo by Felice Cohen-Joppa.

Trident nuclear disarmament activist Steve Kelly, a Jesuit priest, begins his third year imprisoned in a county jail as he and his companions await sentencing.

by Kathy Kelly

April 3, 2020

On April 4, 2020, my friend Steve Kelly will begin a third year of imprisonment in Georgia’s Glynn County jail. He turned 70 while in prison, and while he has served multiple prison sentences for protesting nuclear weapons, spending two years in a county jail is unusual even for him. Yet he adamantly urges supporters to focus attention on the nuclear weapons arsenals which he and his companions aim to disarm. “The nukes are not going to go away by themselves,” says Steve.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 now await sentencing for their action, performed two years ago inside the Kings Bay Trident Submarine base in southern Georgia. They acted in concert with many others who take literally the Scriptural call to “beat swords into plowshares.”  Commenting on their case, Bill Quigley, a member of their legal team, told me “their actions speak louder than  their words and their words are very powerful.” Bill encourages us to remember each of them in our thoughts, prayers, and, hopefully, through our actions. “The legal system is not big enough for the hearts, minds and spirits of these folks,” he adds. “The legal system tries to concentrate all of this down to whether you cut a fence or sprayed some blood.” Bill believes we should instead look at the impending disaster nuclear weapons could cause, and the continuing disaster they do cause by wasting crucially needed resources to potentially destroy the planet.

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Activists charged, detained after praying for peace inside naval base on Jeju Island, South Korea

Photo by Choi Sung-hee, of Dr. Song Kang-ho and Ryu Bok-hee before court, holding signs which read “Demilitarized Peace Island Jeju” and “I want to see Gureombi” (which could also be translated as “I Miss Gureombi”)

On March 7, peace activists on Jeju Island cut the fence to enter the naval base that has been opposed by residents of neighboring Gangjeong Village since it was first proposed in 1993, and became the focus of daily protests since 2007, before construction began. Once inside, Dr. Song Kang-ho and Ryu Bok-hee walked to the area of the remaining part of Gureombi Rock to pray for peace.

Dr. Song had applied multiple times with the Navy for permission to enter the base that day to visit Gureombi. March 7 marked the 8th anniversary of the blasting of Gureombi Rock  – freshwater rock wetlands that harbored rare sea life and provided drinking water for many island inhabitants, long regarded by locals as sacred – to prepare the site for the construction of the naval base.

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Immediate support action needed for Dr. Rafil Dhafir, Humanitarian Political Prisoner

Dr. Rafil Dhafir has been in prison for more than 17 years, is 71 years old and has multiple serious health problems. Please ask the warden at Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood Low in Pennsylvania to FREE HIM NOW!

Dr. Rafil Dhafir is an Iraqi emigre and oncologist. As a respected physician and Islamic community leader in upstate New York, he was an outspoken opponent of the 1991-2003 U.S. sanctions against Iraq. He established a charity for beleaguered Iraqis and donated over $1 million of his own earnings to their needs. 
On February 26, 2003, days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, government agents arrested Dr. Dhafir as he drove to work, raided his home and office, and charged him with violating the economic sanctions against Iraq and money laundering. He was repeatedly denied bail, slandered by public officials as a funder of terrorists, convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison. His case is emblematic of the malicious prosecution of Muslim philanthropists and charities in the post-9/11 era. 
He has now served most of his sentence and is scheduled to be released on November 24, 2021.

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The COVID-19 crisis underscores the need to release Leonard Peltier…/the-covid-19-crisis-underscores-the-ne…

March 26, 2020

by Zeke Johnson, Senior Director of Programs, Amnesty International USA

Amnesty International, an independent human rights organization, has long called for clemency and release for Native American activist Leonard Peltier, due to fair trial concerns, the exhaustion of his appeals and his having served more than 40 years in prison, some of which was spent in solitary confinement, for a crime he has always claimed he did not commit. The threat of COVID-19 underscores the urgency of this call, as Peltier is 75 years old and has serious health concerns. He suffers from diabetes, among a myriad of other health issues, and in January 2016 was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which can be fatal if it ruptures.

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Judge Orders Chelsea Manning’s Release From Jail for Not Cooperating With WikiLeaks Grand Jury, Supporters Raise $256,000 Fines

By Andy Worthington (reprinted by permission of the author)

March 15, 2020

Good news from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where, on Thursday (March 12), District Judge Anthony J. Trenga ordered the immediate release from jail of whistleblower Chelsea Manning (formerly Pfc. Bradley Manning), who has been imprisoned since last March for refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

While serving as an Army intelligence analyst in 2009, Manning was responsible for the largest leak of military and diplomatic documents in US history, and received a 35-year sentence — described by Charlie Savage in the New York Times as “the longest sentence by far in an American leak case” — in August 2013.

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