|Six Months in Prison for Protest|
for immediate release
March 13, 2013
Contact: Nico Udu-gama, 202-446-6632
SOA Watch Activists Nashua Chantal Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Protest Against the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC)Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles imposed the 6-month maximum for Nashua Chantal’s nonviolent crossing onto Fort Benning military base in Georgia to protest the continued operation of the notorious School of the Americas/ Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
Columbus, Georgia – On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Nashua Chantal, a resident of Americus, Georgia, was found guilty of trespassing at Fort Benning, Georgia, during the Vigil to close the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) in November 2012. Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles disregarded the completely nonviolent nature of the protest, imposed the 6-month maximum sentence he is allowed on the 60 year-old carpenter and draftsman. Supporters in the court room started to sign civil rights songs following the announcement of the prison sentence by the judge, who immediately ordered the court room cleared, and the activists were removed from the courthouse.
Nashua Chantal crossed the barbed-wire fence at Fort Benning during the annual protest against the continued existence of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in November 2012.
The SOA/WHINSEC is a military training facility that has turned out some of Latin America's most notorious killers and continues to be implicated in human rights abuses today.
In his sentencing statement, Mr. Chantal read examples of atrocities from during the dictatorship of Guatemala SOA graduate José Efraín Ríos Montt, the murder of Victor Jara by SOA graduates in Chile, and the barbaric acts of US trained forces in El Salvador.
SOA/WHINSEC graduates have recently been involved in the 2009 military coup and the ongoing systematic repression in Honduras, as well as extrajudicial executions in Colombia.
Over 300 people have been sentenced for their nonviolent and peaceful acts of civil disobedience against the SOA/WHINSEC. Since assuming his judgeship in 2010, Judge Hyles has highlighted the political nature of the trial by handing out the maximum six-month sentence. In contrast, not one person who has trained Latin American officials implicated in killings in their own country has ever been held accountable for their acts.
Last year’s mobilization included a rally on Saturday, November 17, where thousands came together at the gates of the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC), and culminated on Sunday, November 18 with a symbolic funeral procession to commemorate the victims of SOA/ WHINSEC violence and U.S. militarization. It was during the procession that Chantal carried his message—“Study war no more”—onto the grounds of the base.
This month, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) will introduce legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to suspend operations at the school and investigate human rights abuses in Latin America.
SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the US Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work.
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