– 2004-12-18 21:30:24
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., (December 14, 2004) — For the second time in less than a week, a jury in Hennepin County District Court found four weapons protesters ‘not guilty’ of trespass at Alliant Tech Systems (ATK) in Edina, Minnesota. ATK is the largest defense contractor in the state of Minnesota, and a supplier to the U.S. military of what many consider to be weapons of indiscriminate destruction.
John Heid, 49, Jane Hosking, 36, John LaForge, 48, and Mike Miles, 51, all of rural Luck, Wisconsin, were found not guilty of trespass after the four admitted that they had, in fact, gone onto ATK’s property last July to deliver a written warning to ATK executives.
The defendants argued that they had a right to meet with management to discuss ATK’s tacit admission that the company manufactures weapons that cannot distinguish between combatants and civilians, and cause long-term, irreparable damage to the environment.
The four defendants claim that various provisions in treaties to which the United States is a party, such as The Hague Regulations, Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Charter, prohibit ATK from producing poisonous, indiscriminate weapons. They went on to argue that these same treaties give individuals legal rights to take reasonable actions to prevent war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity.
The Minnesota State trespass statute contains a provision that if an individual can prove they have a “claim of right” to be on private property, they can remain there without violating the law. In legal instructions given to the jury, Hennepin County Judge Jack Nordby informed them that permission to be on the property of another can be granted by “a statute, rule, regulation, or other law.”
Judge Nordby went on to explain that this meant “any law enacted by the federal or state government, any treaty to which the United States is a party, or any binding rule of international law.”
The jury was able to acquit the four defendants because they were persuaded that the defendants had not acted with criminal intent. In a similar trial, four protesters from Minneapolis were also acquitted by a jury last Friday.
ATK Makes WMDs
ATK has been at the center of controversy for more than a decade because they manufacture land mines, cluster bombs, and “depleted” uranium munitions (DU), all weapons that blur the line between attacking military combatants and innocent civilians.
“Depleted” uranium is waste uranium-238 left after uranium-235 has been separated from uranium ore for use in nuclear reactor fuel and hydrogen bombs. DU weapons æ with a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years — are controversial around the world because of their heavy metal toxicity and their emission of alpha radiation. The 1991 Gulf War left over 340 tons of DU littering Iraq, and over 170 tons were used in the current war.
In 1997, seventy nine people were found not guilty of trespass at ATK when they claimed landmines manufactured by the company also violated international law.
The recent acquittals in Hennepin County court bring to 27, the number of consecutive “not guilty” verdicts reached by juries in similar cases. Four more trials involving over a dozen defendants are currently scheduled in Hennepin County. A campaign by ATK critics is now in its ninth year.
“This is definitely a chink in the armor of Alliant Tech hiding their manufacturing of weapons of indiscriminate destruction behind state statutes,” said Mike Miles, one of the recently vindicated defendants. “We are hoping to persuade corporate executives at Alliant that they must stop producing certain weapons or they may be in danger of joining employees of I.G. Farben as convicted war criminals,” said Miles.
I.G. Farben was a German company that produced the gas used in Nazi concentration camps to kill millions of civilians. Farben executives claimed they were just filling government contracts but the tribunal at Nuremberg convicted them as participants in war crimes.
“These aren’t ‘tank busters’ like the company says, but gene busters that attack children with toxic and radioactive pollution during the shooting war, and for eons afterwards,” said defendant John LaForge, a staff member of the peace group Nukewatch.
Contact: Tom Bottolene, AlliantACTION: 612-388-4814 / 651-701-6963;
or John LaForge at Nukewatch: 715-472-4185; Mobile 715-491-3813;
or Mike Miles, at Anathoth Community Farm: 715-472-8721.