Nuclear Plant Protesters Denied Request for New Trial

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 4, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

A U.S. fed­er­al judge this week turned down a re­quest to al­low a new tri­al for three peace act­iv­ists that were ar­res­ted in 2012 for sneak­ing in­to a se­cured area of the Y-12 nuc­le­ar weapons fa­cil­ity in Ten­ness­ee, the Knoxville News-Sen­tinel re­por­ted on Thursday.

Megan Rice, an 83-year-old Cath­ol­ic nun, along with fel­low Trans­form Now Plow­shares mem­bers Greg Bo­er­tje-Obed, 56, and Mi­chael Walli, 64, were found guilty in May on two felony charges of in­ter­fer­ing with na­tion­al se­cur­ity and dam­aging gov­ern­ment prop­erty through their Ju­ly 2012 break-in at the Y-12 Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Com­plex. The aging pro­test­ers cut through a num­ber of fences in or­der to reach the ex­ter­i­or of the site’s highly en­riched urani­um store­house, which they pro­ceeded to dec­or­ate with peace ad­vocacy signs. They also dumped a buck­et of blood onto the scene be­fore they were ar­res­ted.

Dis­trict Judge Amul Thapar in his rul­ing, re­leased on Tues­day, dis­agreed with the de­fense’s ar­gu­ment the act­iv­ists did not plan to cause harm to na­tion­al de­fense, say­ing their court testi­mony and phone con­ver­sa­tions while in jail sug­ges­ted they wanted to un­der­mine the Y-12 com­plex’s ca­pa­city to man­u­fac­ture and stock­pile war­head parts.

“The de­fend­ants are en­titled to their views re­gard­ing the mor­al­ity of nuc­le­ar weapons,” Thapar wrote. “But the de­fend­ants’ sin­cerely held mor­al be­liefs are not a get-out-of-jail-free card that they can de­ploy to es­cape crim­in­al li­ab­il­ity.”

The judge also re­fused a sep­ar­ate mo­tion to ac­quit the act­iv­ists.

The three pro­test­ers are presently in jail in south­ern Geor­gia. Sen­ten­cing hear­ings have been planned for late Janu­ary. The charges carry pen­al­ties of a max­im­um of 30 years be­hind bars.

The break-in in­cid­ent was a huge em­bar­rass­ment to the con­tract­ors that op­er­ate and guard the Ten­ness­ee site and to the En­ergy De­part­ment’s Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which man­ages the U.S. nuc­le­ar-weapons com­plex. Mem­bers of Con­gress have sug­ges­ted dif­fer­ent ac­tions for im­prov­ing the agency’s abil­ity to mon­it­or U.S. weapon fa­cil­it­ies.

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