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.

NO MUOS activists have rallied to his support, but it had been a challenge because Vaccaro’s noncooperation prevented regular visits and severely limited other communication with the outside world. As it became clear he was enduring many hardships, his former wife flew from the Netherlands to Italy in early February to visit him. She joined a demonstration for his freedom outside the prison and reported that he was fatigued, and that on February 1 he had begun another hunger strike to protest the occupation of Sicily by the U.S. military and his treatment at the prison.

At the time of his imprisonment in 2018, NO MUOS issued a statement declaring that:

“Turi has always shown us how far a popular struggle movement could go, and it is for this reason that a gentle, elderly pacifist who goes barefoot is considered so dangerous by institutions around the world.

“Turi has always been in the front row to give his exemplary and radical example in the struggles against wars, militarization and environmental devastation from the struggles of Comiso* until today. He hammered the words ‘NO MUOS’ on the MUOS satellite dish with a hammer and also carried out other striking international direct actions against the war. He decided by choice never to defend himself in the courts, aware of the moral and civil value of what he did: that the judges are now to be shamed for continuing to sentence and keep such a man in prison.”

He was welcomed at the gate by supporters. The full circumstances of his release now are not yet known. Several supporters have been charged with helping Vaccaro briefly elude police before he was arrested in 2108, and they still face prosecution.

Click here for more information (in Italian) at the No MUOS website.
* Comiso is the air force base on Sicily where U.S. nuclear-armed, ground cruise missiles were deployed and faced stiff popular resistance in the early 1980s.