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Nukewatch Victorious As Fourth Minnesota Jury Clears Them of Tresspass

Over five days, separate juries found two groups of anti-war activists “not-guilty” of trespass last December. This is the fourth time that Minnesota juries have agreed with peace activists in the state. Activists who had refused to leave the premises of one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers - Alliant Techsystems Inc.

Senior staff, denying the protesters a meeting, had the activists arrested after they refused to leave the site of the $2.4Bn weapons giant. ATK, as it is known to its friends, is one of the US’s foremost producers of DU weapons. But wait, not content with manufacturing radiologically and chemically toxic shells, ATK is also famed for its land mines, cluster bombs and rocket motors – just like momma used to make no doubt. As such, it has been the target of relentless protests for more than nine years.

Along with an identical acquittal in October 2003, and a similar one in 1997, the politically charged trials have vindicated a total of 106 people. The 1997 group - 79 protesters in all - won a “not guilty” verdict after showing that the outlaw status of landmines excused what otherwise appears to be trespassing.

Last January and May, three other groups of alleged trespassers had their charges dropped just prior to trial. Another group of 34 civil resistors arrested on March 14th had charges dismissed on a technicality. The December acquittals turned the tables on ordinary “trespass” allegations and put ATK (a Honeywell Corporation spin-off) in the hot seat.

Three of the defendants in the Dec. 14 acquittal had visited Iraq themselves and had seen firsthand the consequences of using nuclear waste as a weapon of war. They testified as eye witnesses to the documented increases in cancer and leukaemia in southern Iraq that have occurred since 1991. The six-person jury in the most recent case, and in similar trials on the 10th December 2004, and 18th October 2003, decided that the defendants’ argument is reasonable even if technically “mistaken.” As the judge told the jury, “If the defendants acted in good faith under claim of right, even if reasonably mistaken as to this right, you must find the defendants not guilty.”

They testified that weapons being made with radioactive waste are illegal and that international law provided them with a legitimate “claim of right” in acting to prevent war crimes.

As the group explained in their closing argument at trial, “In a nutshell, the law says: It is forbidden to use poison or poisoned weapons; to use weapons that do severe, long-term damage to the environment; to use weapons that cannot distinguish between civilians and soldiers, or to use materials or devices that are similar to gas; the planning or preparation of wars that would violate binding treaties is itself a crime; individuals are personally responsible for their participation in these crimes – which is to say that we must all avoid such participation,” said John LaForge of Nukewatch. ‘’To date, four ordinary juries have recognized the citizen’s right to nonviolent obstinacy in the face of official wrongdoing. In the case of refusing to leave ATK’s “dirty bomb” headquarters until we were granted a meeting, we merely attempted an act of crime prevention.’’

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Page last updated: 6th December 2002