US Attorney's office drops felony charges
against Greenpeace Star Wars 17
8 Jan 2002
Los Angeles, California: The US Attorney's Office has agreed to drop the two felony charges against the 15 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists who were due to stand trial in Los Angeles today, following a peaceful protest against the Star Wars missile test at Vandenberg Air Force base in California on 14 July 2001.
All 17 defendants pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanour charge of conspiring to enter a military base, which carries a potential jail term of up to six months. (1) In addition, Greenpeace staff in the US have a been bound by a civil injunction, preventing them from participating in protests which break the law at military bases supporting the Star Wars programme in the US and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.(2)
"We are not afraid or ashamed to admit to trespassing at Vandenberg, our action was a simple, principled and a non-violent one,"(3) said Greenpeace disarmament campaigner, Mike Townsley. "The US Attorney's Office was attempting to shut down our civil right to protest and intimidate both the defendants and Greenpeace as a whole by bringing totally unwarranted felony charges against activists and journalists, they failed, and we will continue our campaign to stop Star Wars," Townsley added.
Greenpeace was prepared to go to court and face all the original charges, to tell the jury why the activists took their action. However, under a legal motion brought by the prosecution prior to trial, they would have been prevented from presenting a defence based upon moral opposition to Star Wars and from detailing their case that the test was illegal under both US and International Law.
The activists, who come from all over the world,(4) carried out the protest at Vandenberg to highlight the threat that Star Wars will ignite a new nuclear arms race. Greenpeace will continue to oppose the program and will still actively work to stop it.Notes to editors:
- Some or all 17 defendants will have to appear in court on January 18th for sentencing. The prosecution has indicated they may still demand that some could be given jail terms.
- Under the terms of the injunction United States Greenpeace staff are barred from participating in any protests which break the law at military bases supporting the Star Wars program in the US, as well as the facility in the Marshall Islands. $150,000 was demanded in damages for costs incurred by the government and military as a result of the protest and subsequent legal proceedings. Should Greenpeace in the US violate the terms, a $500,000 fine will be imposed and individuals involved in the breach could face jail terms.
- During the action Greenpeace activists swam ashore at the airbase with Stop Star Wars banners, divers went underwater and other activists in inflatables protested under the flight path of the missile, delaying the test for forty minutes. It was documented by the two journalists.
- The 15 activists come from the US, UK, Sweden, India, Australia, Germany, Canada and New Zealand. One freelance journalist is from the UK, while the other is from Spain and a resident of the US.