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Federal Inmates On Day 17 of Hunger Strike Protesting Military Training School

Two federal prisoners at the Federal Prison Camp in Sheridan, OR, Eric Jan Robinson and Josh Raisler-Cohn, are in their 17th day of an 18 day hunger strike to protest the continued existance of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). Robinson (21, of Spokane, WA) and Raisler-Cohn (24, of Portland, OR) are in good sprits and feeling healthy.
Federal Inmates On Day 17 of Hunger Strike Protesting Military Training School; Call For A Permanent Closure Of The US Army School Of The Americas

For Immediate Release!

Local contacts: Celine Fitzmaurice (Portland, OR) (503) 943-7032 (work), (503) 284-5139 (home); Peace and Justice Action League Spokane (WA) (509) 838-7870

National Contact: School of the Americas Watch (202) 234-3440

Prison Contact (to set up interviews): Executive Assistant Mr. Ali (503) 843-4442

November 17, 2001
Two federal prisoners at the Federal Prison Camp in Sheridan, OR, Eric Jan Robinson and Josh Raisler-Cohn, are in their 17th day of an 18 day hunger strike to protest the continued existance of the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). Robinson (21, of Spokane, WA) and Raisler-Cohn (24, of Portland, OR) are in good sprits and feeling healthy. Martha Hayward, one of their co-defendants, is also participating in the fast.

Robinson and Raisler-Cohn have been imprisoned on six month maximum sentences, along with 19 others, for trespassing at Ft. Benning, GA, home of this controversial training school. They were all arrested in November 2000, along with 1,700 others who were not prosecuted, in the annual vigil and civil disobedience at the School.

The prison administration is currently denying the media access to Robinson and Raisler-Cohn. The McMinnville News-Register (OR) was denied an interview with Raisler-Cohn last week, as was the Portland, OR, public radio station KBOO. Prison officials denied the interviews on the basis that they "... would probably cause serious unrest or disturb the good order of the prison." It is unclear how interviews with fasting peace activists would create such problems.

The US Army School of the Americas was founded in 1946 in Panama, and has been at the center of controversy for decades. More than 60,000 Latin American soldiers have been trained in counter-insurgency warfare techniques at the SOA. Among its graduates are many of the continent's most notorious torturers, mass murderers, dictators, and state terrorists.

Twenty-eight years to the day before the World Trade Center attack, SOA graduates participated in the violent overthrow of a democratic government in Chile that was replaced with a dictatorship. According to a recent report, more than 50% of the 247 Colombian military officials listed as human rights violators were also trained at the School of the Americas.

"The SOA is a training ground for thugs and dictators who have a history of trampling on human rights," said Raisler-Cohn. "This School of Assassins must be closed forever."

The School of the Americas has more proven links to acts of terror than the al-Qaida. The FBI defines terrorism as "violent acts... intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government, or affect the conduct of a government"; this is part and parcel of the activities of SOA graduates.

"The School of the Americas is a terrorist training school paid for with taxpayer dollars right here in the US," said Robinson. "The first step in a 'War on Terror' should be to stop training terrorists."

Due to a growing public campaign, the SOA came within 10 votes of being closed by Congress last year. Under pressure from the Pentagon, the School was closed and re-opened with a new name to distance itself from its horrific past. The so-called new school, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is located in the same building, has the same instructors, and has a cosmetically revised curriculum.

Robinson and Raisler-Cohn's fast is scheduled to coincide with this year's annual protest. November 18, the day the fast will end, is also the day that thousands will gather at Ft. Benning to participate in a vigil and civil disobedience remembering the victims of and calling for a permanent closure to the SOA.

Robinson is scheduled to be released January 27th, 2002; Raisler-Cohn's release date is next week, November 21, 2001.

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phone: phone: (202) 234-3440