The Washington Post reports: “A federal judge has ordered a Catholic nun, a Vietnam veteran and a house painter from Duluth, Minn., to pay full restitution of $53,000 for damaging one of the nation’s most secure sites for nuclear weapons production. The three were convicted of sabotage last year for breaking into the facility.” They are currently in prison and their sentencing hearing was delayed from last week till Feb. 18. The Post reports: “The government had asked for the three to be given terms of five to nine years.”
The Post writes: “In the predawn hours of July 28, 2012, the trio cut through four fences at the Y-12 National Security Complex in nearby Oak Ridge, Tenn., where the fuel for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was produced during the Manhattan Project.
“Having essentially circumvented a glitch-ridden security apparatus that cost $150 million a year, they splashed blood and spray-painted biblical messages on the exterior of the building that warehouses an estimated 400 tons of highly enriched uranium — enough to fuel 10,000 nuclear bombs.
“In May, they were convicted by a jury of intending to harm national security and of damaging more than $1,000 in government property. Michael Walli, 65, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, have served a combined eight years of jail time for similar crimes that they categorize as symbolic disarmament actions and civil resistance against a far greater crime: the maintenance of a stockpile of immoral and costly weapons that violate international law.
“Rice [who is 84] was a teacher in West Africa for decades before returning to the United States to devote her ‘retirement’ to anti-nuclear activism.”
The U.S. Marshals have largely prevented contact between the jailed activists and the media, but the Guardian reported last week: “In a letter written in November to the Guardian while in prison in Ocilla, Georgia, where she has been held for either months since the trial in May, Rice said she had no regrets about the break-in that led to her incarceration and potentially lengthy sentence. ‘Of course,’ she said, in reply to a question over whether it was all worth it, in the light of the prison time served and the severity of the sentence.
“‘We … prepared over years of education and reflection and awareness based on personal experiences by each of us.’
“Asked about the sabotage charge against her, she wrote: ‘I don’t focus on any of this. It’s all based on lies and denial of known true facts of history and science.’
“Rice — who joined the order of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus as a teenager – and her co-defendants describe themselves as the Transform Now Plowshares, a reference to the passage in the Bible, Isaiah 2:4, which states: ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ Their actions … were intended to highlight the vast gulf between the U.S.’s obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to disarm and its ongoing activities and production of nuclear weapon components at the Tennessee facility.”
PAUL MAGNO, pmagno at igc.org
RALPH HUTCHISON, orep at earthlink.net
Magno and Hutchison are fellow activists from the Transform Now Plowshares Support Group and are in regular contact with the jailed activists. Magno is himself a past Plowshares activist and spent 20 months in prison following an action in 1984. He said in a recent statement: “In this country, we often point to other nations, like China, Russia or Iran, where dissidents are imprisoned in order to silence their criticisms of the policies and practices of their governments. We like to think we are more enlightened, that in a free land like ours such draconian measures are out-of-bounds. But this case shows otherwise. The United States is determined to carry out its nuclear agenda, to continue to violate its treaty obligations, to build new bombs and new bomb plants, and they will even put an 84-year-old nun in jail for the rest of her life if that’s what it takes to bury the truth.”