FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2006
Contact in Tucson:
Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa: 520-323-8697
Two Priests Arrested as 120 Join Ft. Huachuca Torture Protest
As more than 120 people gathered at the gate of Fort Huachuca today to protest military intelligence training there that fosters torture, two Roman Catholic priests were arrested when they tried to enter the base, located in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly intended to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post, denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
Major General Fast is the highest ranking intelligence officer tied to the torture at Abu Ghraib torture, yet she has never been punished. Two soldiers with ties to Fort Huachuca are among 28 implicated earlier this year in the beating deaths of two prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002.
Today¹s demonstration took place in conjunction with the annual vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia, where over 20,000 people vigiled today and at least 14 were arrested as they called for closing the infamous School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Dozens of Latin American military leaders who trained at the ³School of Assassins² have since been convicted of torture, murder, and other heinous crimes in their own countries.
Frs. Vitale and Kelly walked into the base but were stopped as they approached the gatehouse. An officer from the base offered to deliver their letter to the Commander, but the priests persisted, because they also intended to speak with the service men and women receiving interrogation training at Fort Huachuca. When they were not allowed to pass, the two men knelt in prayer and were arrested. They both received a federal citation for trespass and were released without conditions, and told they should be contacted within 45 days with a court date.
Fr. Louie Vitale is a member of Pace e Bene, whose mission is ³to develop the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence as a way of living and being and as a process for cultural transformation.² Fr. Vitale is also a co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based organization that has opposed nuclear weapons testing for a quarter of a century. Fr. Vitale recently served six months in jail following his arrest at the Ft. Benning vigil in November, 2005, and was ejected from congressional hearings in September after speaking out against the Military Commissions Act.
Fr. Steve Kelly is a member of the Redwood City Catholic Worker community and has served time in federal prison for the nonviolent direct disarmament of nuclear weapon delivery systems. In December, 2005, Kelly served as chaplain for Witness to Torture, a delegation of over two dozen U.S. anti-torture activists who defied the U.S. embargo of Cuba with a peaceful march through that nation to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay navel base and prison camp.
The text of the letter delivered to the base commander follows this news release.
- 30 -
To: Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast -
We are here today as concerned U.S. people, veterans and clergy, to speak with enlisted personnel about the illegality and immorality of torture according to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions.
We condemn torture as a dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators, resulting in humiliation, disability and even death. In addition to the hundreds of detainees who have died, we are also concerned about U.S. military personnel. Alyssa Peterson committed suicide after participating in the torture of Iraqi prisoners. Lynndie England and others have been imprisoned for their illegal activities.
We are here today at Ft. Huachuca in solidarity with tens of thousands of people at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Ft. Benning, Georgia (formerly known as the School of the Americas) to say that the training of torturers must immediately stop. Nothing justifies the inhumane treatment of our fellow brothers and sisters.
Torture by U.S. military personnel has reached alarming proportions and has horrified people around the world. We are convinced that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is unconstitutional. We totally reject its conclusions. Torture is a useless and unreliable tool that leads to an accepted practice of terrorization and the rationalization of wrongdoing.
We are here today to repent and clearly state that because of our sense of moral and human decency we condemn torture.
NOT IN OUR NAME.
Signed this 19th day of November, 2006 -
Louis Vitale,OFM Steve Kelly, SJ
Jack & Felice Cohen-Joppa
Tucson AZ 85733