calls by federal prosecutors to jail two priests protesting against
torture training at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, a federal judge has allowed
them to remain free until their trial, which is set for June 4, 2007.
Fr. Louis Vitale, a 74-year-old
Franciscan priest, and Fr. Steve Kelly, a 58-year-old Jesuit priest,
were arraigned in federal court in Tucson on federal and state charges
of trespassing and refusal to follow police orders at an anti-torture
protest at Ft. Huachuca.
The federal prosecutor asked the judge to put the two priests in jail
before their trial saying they had a substantial history of arrests
and were likely to be involved in similar protests and commit other
protest crimes unless jailed. After the prosecutor admitted that the
actions charged were nonviolent, the court released the priests on
their own recognizance.
The priests were arrested on November 19, 2006 at Ft. Huachuca, in
Sierra Vista Arizona after the knelt to pray on the road approaching
the gate to the fort. They were part of a crowd of 120 people
peacefully protesting against military intelligence training at Ft.
Huachuca that fosters torture. The protestors objected to the teaching
of torture interrogation tactics at Ft. Huachuca by U.S. military
intelligence -- tactics used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Documents
detailing Department of Defense spying on protestors outside the Fort
in 2004 have been made public. The DOD described the protest as a
“credible threat” to national security.
The Army Field Manual on interrogation (Human Resource Exploitation
Training Manual) was written at Fort Huachuca. A number of the
officers and soldiers responsible for human rights abuses at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison have worked at
or were trained at the Headquarters for Army Intelligence Training at
The two priests tried to speak to enlisted soldiers and deliver a
letter to Major General Barbara Fast, commissioner of the post,
denouncing torture and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
General Fast is the highest ranking
intelligence officer tied to the torture at Abu Ghraib. Two other
soldiers with ties to Fort Huachuca are among the 28 implicated in the
beating deaths of two prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002.
Counter-protestors waved flags and accused those protesting against
torture of being supporters of Islamic terrorists.
Fr. Vitale is a member of Pace e Bene, whose mission is "to develop
the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence as a way of living
and being and as a process for cultural transformation." 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. He 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 naval base and prison camp.
The text of the letter the priests tried to deliver to the base
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
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. 19th day of November,
-- Louis Vitale,OFM / Steve Kelly, SJ
is a law professor and human rights lawyer at Loyola University New
Orleans and represents one of the protesting priests. You can find out
more about the protest and the jailed priests on the website for
Jonah House. For other information about the protest and
the priests, contact Jack or Felice Cohen-Joppa 520-323-8697. You can
reach Bill at: Quigley@loyno.edu.