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SOA Trial Update: 35 Human Rights Advocates Begin Trial

Defendants Aim to Expose Double Standard in War on Terrorism, Put SOA and US Foreign Policy on Trial

Columbus, GA - As the Bush Administration seeks to expand the "war on terrorism", 35 human rights advocates from across the country are scheduled to appear for trial in federal court today where they intend to expose what they call a terrorist training camp on U.S. soil - the School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHISC). Graduates of the controversial combat training school for Latin American soldiers continue to be implicated in human rights atrocities throughout Latin America.

The defendants were among 10,000 who gathered in November to call for the closure of the SOA/WHISC. They were part of a group of 96 who peacefully crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the school. The 35 are the last of this group to be adjudicated. Forty-two defendants were tried and convicted January 27-29. Sentences ranged from twelve months probation to six months in federal prison with fines. The defendants include Catholic nuns, a priest, a reverend, veterans, union organizers and students. The defendants plan to testify in court against a double standard in the "war on terrorism", and to put the SOA/WHISC and U.S. foreign policy on trial. The trial judge, G. Mallon Faircloth, is known for giving the maximum of six months to opponents of the SOA/WHISC.
"The SOA is out of alignment with the values of the American people," said Judy Bierbaum, a defendant from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was sentenced in January to six months in prison and a $2,000 fine. "Patriotism is not about slapping a flag in the window if that's where it ends - it's about calling our country to task." [ Read More... ] www.soaw.org