International Law Wins
On June 10, 1999, a Kitsap County, Washington jury found eight activists who blocked
traffic into Bangor Nuclear Submarine Base on August 9, 1998, not guilty. In an
unusual instruction which may have influenced the jury members, District Court Judge James
Riehl informed them that international treaties supersede local law. During the
trial, defendant Brian Watson, relying in part on a declaration prepared by LCNP's John
Burroughs, presented excerpts from the Hague Convention of 1907, the Nuremberg Principles
and the 1996 International Court of Justice opinion on the legality of the threat or use
of nuclear weapons. The jury foreperson was visibly moved after the verdict was delivered,
stating that she was "proud to sit with these people."
Contact: Ground Zero Center for Non-Violent Action, 16159 Clear Creek Road NW, Poulsbo, WA
On July 29, 1999, Judge Rebecca Beach Smith sentenced anti-nuclear activist Michele Naar
Obed to one year in prison for violating probation conditions which included a ban on
visiting Jonah House, a Catholic Worker house in Baltimore. Smith had previously detained
Naar Obed to prevent her appearing on talk shows and participating in anti-nuclear
protests. Naar Obed was on probation following her release from prison in November 1997
after serving time for a Plowshares action against a fast-attack submarine at Newport News
Shipbuilding in August 1995. The judge found her to be a danger to the community based
upon flaunting the conditions of probation, for going on talk shows, and associating with
people who committed criminal acts (i.e., other Plowshares activists).
Contact: Jonah House, 1301 Moreland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216 Ph: 410-233-6238 or email@example.com
Gods of Metal
On January 4, 1999, five Gods
of Metal Plowshares activists were sentenced to prison for terms ranging from four to ten
months following their conviction for willful damage to government property stemming from
their disarmament action against a B-52 bomber at Andrews Air Force Base outside of
Washington. Federal Judge Alexander Williams gave each defendant the lowest sentence under
the sentencing guidelines, stating: "It's clear to me that you're sincere in your
" Defendant Kathy Boylan equated the B-52 to a Nazi gas
chamber and to the chains placed on slaves. Defendant Carol Gilbert said "By our
actions we intended to disarm these gods of metal. They are illegal and they must be
disarmed." Prosecutor Patrick DeConcini, a Catholic and son of former senator
Dennis DeConcini, when asked if it was difficult for him to be prosecuting two nuns, two
priests and a grandmother, replied "I think that's fair to say."
Contact: Liz Walters, 1664 Church Street, Detroit, MI 48216.
Hung Jury in Ploughshares
On May 14, 1999, the eight day trial in
Preston Crown Court, England, of three Swedish Ploughshares activists ended when the jury,
after seven hours of deliberation, could not reach a verdict. Annika Spalde, Stellan
Vinthagen and Ann-Britt Sternfeldt, of the Bread Not Bombs Ploughshares group, had been
accused of conspiring to cause criminal damage to the new Trident nuclear weapons
submarine, HMS Vengeance, after they entered the Barrow shipyards in September 1998 and
began symbolic "disarmament" of Trident related equipment. Vinthagen commented,
"We are really impressed that a jury of ordinary citizens from a town so dependent on
weapons production refused to find us guilty, in spite of them being told by the Judge
that that was their only option." A retrial has been set for October 11, 1999.
The judge has said that he will seek the view of the Attorney General on the application
of the 1996 ruling by the International Court of Justice to Britain's nuclear weapons.
The Bread Not Bombs group works in association with Trident Ploughshares 2000, whose
member Jane Tallents said: "It is an enormous encouragement that at least some
members of a jury have appreciated the moral and legal arguments we are bringing to bear.
We will continue to argue for the validity of direct disarmament."
Preston Crown Court is set to host yet another trial of disarmers when the Aldermaston
Trash Trident activists appear on charges of damage to radar testing equipment on board
the same submarine on the February 1, 1999.
Websites: www.plowshares.se/bnb and
Loch Goil Disarmers Face
Theft and Damage Charge
On June 8, 1999, peace activists Ellen Moxley, from Dollar, Scotland, Ulla Roder from
Denmark and Angie Zelter, from Norfolk, England, boarded "Maytime", a floating
laboratory in Loch Goil which checks the "sonar invisibility" of Trident nuclear
submarines, and cleared out the lab, throwing the equipment into the loch. The women were
charged with malicious mischief and theft and told that they would be
released on the condition that they not "reoffend" before the trial date,
which has yet to be set. When the women told the court that they would continue
disarmament actions to uphold international law, they were returned to Corton Vale prison.
For a report from prison by Ellen Moxley and video and photos see www.gn.apc.org/tp2000
On February 18, 1999, Daniel Sicken was
sentenced to 41 months and Sachio Ko-Yin to 30 months in federal prison for sabotage,
conspiracy and destruction of government property in their Plowshares action against
a Minuteman III nuclear missile in August 1998 (see Bombs Away! Fall 1998). The defendants
originally faced between 63 and 97 months for the convictions, but the sentences were
reduced by Judge Walker Miller on the basis of arguments, some provided by LCNP President
Peter Weiss, that the principle of "gradations of offense" applied and that
there were reasonable motives for the offense including moral grounds and the
International Court of Justice nuclear weapons opinion.