Source: Reader Supported News
On February 18, 2014, Federal Judge Amul Thapar will sentence an 83-year-old Roman Catholic nun and 2 others to what could be terms long enough to ensure that all three will die in prison.
What did Sister Megan Rice, 82, and Michael R. Walli, 63, of Washington and Gregory I. Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minnesota, do? They cut through three fences with a pair of bolt cutters, hung banners, painted biblical slogans, and threw blood on a wall. Oh yes, and they embarrassed the United States government.
Quietly, with little or no mention by the American corporate press, the U.S. cache of political prosecutions and prisoners is significantly on the rise. Lynne Stuart, Tim DeChristopher, John Walker Lindh, John C. Kiriakou, Bradley (Chelsea) Manning and more recently the so-called "NATO 3" are but a few examples of novel government prosecutions resulting in unprecedented prison sentences. In each case, as in Oak Ridge, the defendants held strong political beliefs in opposition to the U.S. government.
The government says that that Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed committed acts that amounted to sabotage, and they had little difficulty convincing a Tennessee jury. The problem is that there was no evidence of sabotage presented by the government. There was evidence of trespassing and vandalism, but the sabotage charge was pure hyperbole.
If being found guilty of sabotage were not worrisome enough, Judge Amul Thapar's remarks regarding a recent sentencing hearing suggest that he will show no leniency: "The critical point is contrition, and I don't think any of the defendants are contrite about what they did. The defendants will not be given acceptance of responsibility."
Upon closer examination, however, Judge Thapar's remarks are not surprising for a man with his political background. Thapar's path to the federal bench was through staunchly Republican, right-wing political channels. Appointed to the bench by George W. Bush in 2007, Thapar, then United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, was a favorite of Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell. In fact, McConnell played a key role in recruiting Thapar from his post in Ohio and was a very vocal advocate of his appointment to the federal bench, singing his praises loudly on the Senate floor during the nomination proceeding. But perhaps the most telling indicator of Thapar's ideological perspective was his association with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Thapar served on an advisory committee to Gonzales and came under scrutiny in the "firing of U.S. attorneys because they [allegedly] weren't active enough in prosecution Democrats."
But Thapar and the Republicans are not alone in their zeal to make examples of American dissenters. The Obama administration appears more intent on "Silencing the Whistle-Blowers" than any White House in history. The prosecutions are often novel or even unprecedented, the type that American judges and juries have historically eyed with substantial suspicion. However, in the current climate of mass media-driven fear, American juries ask no questions. Defendants can be tried and convicted of seemingly whatever prosecutors have the imagination to conjure up.
When the U.S. corporate press reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has orchestrated convictions and prison sentences of his political opponents, there is always an air of condemnation in the reporting. But there is more to report. It should be said that the ranks of U.S. political prisoners are growing every day and that justice is just as much a political tool in the U.S. as it is in Russia. Are Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed's actions that much more serious than Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, the p*ssy Riot members convicted and jailed for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for a protest in Moscow's biggest Orthodox cathedral." In reality, the construct and prosecution of the two cases is strikingly similar.
In the meantime we shall see if the Vatican makes an appearance on Sister Megan's behalf or just quietly lets her go to a place the church's pedophiles never seem to go -- prison.
For reference, the following is an article written by Fran Quigly on the Oak Ridge trial. It was first published on CommonDreams.org on May 15, 2013. Fran Quigly does an excellent job of presenting the case and charges. Full disclosure: Fran Quigly is the brother of Attorney Bill Quigly, who is representing Michael R. Walli in the Oak Ridge case.
Fran Quigley | How the US Turned Three Pacifists Into Violent Terrorists
In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82-year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from nonviolent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism. Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.
Here is how it happened.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 28, 2012, long-time peace activists Sr. Megan Rice, 82, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and Michael Walli, 63, cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons production facility and trespassed onto the property. Y-12, called the Fort Knox of the nuclear weapons industry, stores hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium and works on every single one of the thousands of nuclear weapons maintained by the U.S.
Describing themselves as the Transform Now Plowshares, the three came as nonviolent protestors to symbolically disarm the weapons. They carried bibles, written statements, peace banners, spray paint, flower, candles, small baby bottles of blood, bread, hammers with biblical verses on them, and wire cutters. Their intent was to follow the words of Isaiah 2:4: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."