Friday, May 30, 2008

Convicted for Unlawful Free Speech!: 34 Gitmo Protestors

According to this important report from Alternet:

Thirty-four Americans arrested at the Supreme Court on January 11, 2008
were found guilty after a three-day trial which began on Tuesday, May 27th in
D.C. Superior Court. The defendants represented themselves, mounting a spirited
defense of their First Amendment rights to protest the gross injustice of abuse
and indefinite detention of men at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.
Charged with "unlawful free speech," the defendants were part of a larger
group that appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on January 11 -- the day marking
six years of indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo. "I knelt and prayed
on the steps of the Supreme Court wearing an orange jumpsuit and black hood to
be present for Fnu Fazaldad," said Tim Nolan, a nurse practitioner from
Asheville, NC who provides health care for people with HIV.

Wait a minute! "Unlawful Free Speech"???? Doesn't the US Constitution prohibit passing any law that curtails Americans' right to free speech? Especially when that free speech right is used to express an opinion? Especially an opinion about a government policy? Isn't that a basic right guaranteed to all US citizens??? What does this mean?????

According to one of the convicted protestors:

Defendants and witnesses argued that they did not expect to be arrested at
the Supreme Court, "an internationally known temple to free speech." Ashley
Casale, a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, told the court, "I am
19 -- the youngest person in this courtroom--and I come on behalf of all the
prisoners at Guantanamo who were younger than I am now when they were detained.
According to the U.S. Constitution we have a right to petition the government
for a redress of grievances and Guantanamo Bay prison is beyond grievous."
According to Historian Michael S. Foley, a professor at the City University of New York:

if "you told me that the defendants would be arrested for 'unlawful free
speech' just twenty feet from where the Justices decide First Amendment cases,
I'd say you were 'crazy.'"
According to Arthur Laffin, an attorney at Gitmo in his closing statement at the January Guantanamo Trial:

My name is Arthur Laffin and I am representing Mane'I al Otaybi, a Saudi
national who was 25 years old when he was taken into U.S. custody in
Afghanistan. He died at the Guantanamo military prison on June 10, 2006 of a
reported suicide. To date, there has been no independent investigation of his
death or the others who have died at
Guantanamo. We remember these dead prisoners in a special way here in this court today.
The government has asserted that this case is not about Guantanamo. We respectfully and vehemently disagree. In our defense, we have to put forth to this court overwhelming evidence that the U.S. government has engaged in criminal conduct. What is at issue here is: what do citizens do when all three branches of government are in violation of divine law, international law, and its own Constitution? When habeas corpus rights are denied to persons, when persons are held indefinitely
without being charged, when persons are tortured by U.S. personnel in violation
of the Geneva Conventions and the Eighth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, we
citizens have a right and a duty to petition the government and to seek redress.
This is what we defendants did on January 11.
According to Usama Abu Kabir, a Guantanamo prisoner, who expressed himself in this poem:

By Usama Abu Kabir (Guantanamo Prisoner)
Is it true that
the Grass grows again after the rain?Is it true that the Flowers will rise up in
the Spring?Is it true that the Birds will migrate home again?Is it true that the
Salmon swim back up the stream?
It is true. This is true. These are all
miracles.But is it true that one day we'll leave Guantanamo Bay?Is it true that
one day we'll go back to our homes?I sail in my dreams, I'm dreaming of
To be with my children, each one part of me;To be with my wife, and the
ones that I love;To be with my parents, my world's tenderest hearts.I dream to
be home, to be free from this cage.
But do you hear me, O Judge, do you hear
me at all?We are innocent, here, we've committed no crime.
Set me free, set
us free, if anywhere still--May justice, compassion remain in this world!
Only those with a conscience will be moved.
Or join with Witness Against Torture and keep working to shut Gitmo and the whole "Homeland Security" torture racket down.

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