Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Priests 'gagged' on torture

NEWS RELEASE from the Nuclear Resister newsletter
September 5, 2007


Three weeks after the conclusion of a pretrial motions hearing for two priests facing trial for their November, 2006 arrest at Ft.Huachuca, U.S. Magistrate Hector Estrada issued his rulings on the various motions before his Tucson, Arizona court.

He denied the defense requests for a jury trial and dismissal of the charges against Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly and Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale. Healso denied the government's motion to use Fr. Vitale's prior arrests and convictions as prima facie evidence of trespass.

In a significant order that effectively gags the defense, Estrada granted the government's motion in limine to preclude defenses. The gag order forbids the defendants from introducing evidence at trial, either documentary or testimonial, about: the defenses of duress, justification, necessity, or self-defense; the morality or immorality of the government's use of interrogation techniques, training of soldiers in interrogation techniques; the legality of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan; any military actions to support interrogations in any foreign countries; the legality of the Military Commission Actof 2006; the defense of international law; or the wisdom of any political question or government policy.

Magistrate Estrada also ordered Fr. Vitale to report to court on September 21 for a hearing on his conditions of pretrial release. Because of the unavailability of his attorney, Bill Quigley, on that day, another date will be scheduled for the hearing.

On August 13,at the end of the pretrial motions hearing, Estrada sent Vitale tothe court's pretrial services for evaluation, after learning that thepriest had been cited a few days earlier for a Nagasaki Dayline-crossing at the Nevada nuclear weapons test site. At theirApril arraignment, Estrada had ordered the two priests not to breaklocal, state or federal laws.

The two are charged with federal trespass and an Arizona state charge of failure to comply with a police officer following their attempt to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to Major General BarbaraFast, then commander at Fort Huachuca, on November 19, 2006. If convicted of both charges, they each face ten months in prison. A trial date is expected to be set later in September.
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