WAT Fast during June Torture Awareness Week

In Focus - Front Page // Film

 

We invite you to join WAT’s Torture Awareness Week Fast (June 21-26).  We will be fasting in our homes in deference to the still unvanquished pandemic. Fast for a day or two or for all five days, and meet with us on Zoom for mutual support on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday morning.  Our purpose is to use our own bodies to deepen our understanding of the U.S. use of torture, especially against the Muslim men locked in Guantanamo. Read our Thoughts on Fasting.

If you would like to join us, please send an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com with “RSVP for Fast” in the subject line: you’ll receive the Zoom link and tips on fasting safely.  Below are actions to take and other Torture Awareness Week events.

Press release: Torture Awareness Week — WAT June 2021 Press Release

Menu of Actions to Take During the Week

Choose the actions that are meaningful to you. Even if you decide not to fast, you can still join in taking concrete actions to oppose torture and support torture survivors. Keep checking back for details: list is in progress!

-Write to the men in Guantanamo: Names and instructions are here.

-Email/call Congresspersons:  This week, call or email your representative and Senators telling them you’re concerned about the men in Guantanamo, and why.  Urge them to press the administration to clear and release detainees and close Guantanamo. Find your members: House, Senate

-Email/call President Biden: Tell President Biden why you’re concerned about the men in Guantanamo and urge him to act more quickly to empty the prison and close it. Email: www.whitehouse.gov/contact/  Call: 202-456-1111

-Vigil in your home town:  Make a sign stating your own demand and stand on a busy street corner for an hour.  Ask your friends to join you, but even a one-person vigil can have an impact.  

-Write a letter to your home town paper: Use your own words or draw on some of the ideas in this Sample Letter to the Editor . Draw on the stark facts as reasons to close Guantanamo. Your viewpoint counts, especially in your own community!  

Watch The Mauritanian, the film about former Guantanamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi, starring Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahim.  Now available online for only $5.99.  Watch it yourself, or organize a group of friends to view it together!  

Events

Keep checking back for what other groups are doing: the list is in progress!
(And send us your local anti-torture and close Guantanamo actions and events to post.)

–WAT Fast

Monday, June 21 – WAT Fast Begins: Zoom circle at 8 pm ET (Send email to witnesstorture@gmail.com with “RSVP to fast” in subject line for Zoom link)

Wednesday, June 23 – WAT Fast Zoom circle at 8 pm ET

Saturday, June 26 – 11 am WAT Fast Zoom circle and breaking of fast

–TASSC online conference – The Asylum Crisis in the US

Wednesday, June 23 –  Info and Zoom sign-up here.

–Close Guantanamo Vigil Livestream 

Saturday, June 26, 2 pm – We will livestream a WAT Close Guantanamo Vigil in Lafayette Park, Washington DC. 

Torture Awareness Week is the lead-up to June 26, the International UN Day of Support for Victims of Torture — a day that WAT has traditionally observed in conjunction with TASSC: Torture Abolition and  Survivors Support Coalition.  TASSC was founded in 1998 by Sister Dianna Ortiz after she was captured and brutally tortured while teaching in the highlands of Guatemala.  Upon her return to the U.S. she fasted in front of the White House demanding information about U.S. involvement in her torture.  Tragically, this courageous woman, who not only survived kidnapping and torture but used the experience to become a voice for torture victims everywhere  died of cancer February 19 at the age  of 62.  We miss her greatly.  Dianna, Presente!

In the early years of WAT we gathered in June to vigil in solidarity with torture survivors at the TASSC vigil in Lafayette Square, donning orange jump suits and protesting nonviolently.

This year a small group of WAT and other local activists will hold a vigil in Lafayette Square at 2 pm Saturday June 26, to read the names of the 40 Muslim men in Guantanamo.  Watch it live-streamed at facebook.com/rehumanizeintl.

–Buffalo, NY
Silent Vigil for UN “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”

Saturday, June 26, 2021 from 6 to 7 pm at University Presbyterian Church, at the intersection of Main Street and Niagara Falls Boulevard, Buffalo (across from UB Main Street Campus).
All are welcome to bear living witness to Micah 6:8 through peaceful action.

–Starvin’ for Justice Anti-death Penalty Events

June 29 – July 2, Supreme Court Washington, DC

Starvin’ for Justice Anti-death Penalty Fast and Vigil   
Death penalty abolitionists from around the country will gather for the 28th year at the steps of the Supreme Court to call for an end to capital punishment in the United States.


Donate

–Online donations: Click here.

–By check:  Please make your check out to Witness Against Torture and send it to:

New York Catholic Worker
Attn: Witness Against Torture
55 East Third Street
New York, NY 10003

 

 

 

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Lobby Congress about Guantanamo

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

We encourage you to contact your Congress members on or around the anniversary of Guantanamo on January 11 to encourage them to:

·      close Guantanamo in a just and quick manner,

·      charge or release remaining prisoners,

·      allow for transfers to US for trial or medical
needs,

·      reopen the State Dept. resettlement office.

Check if your member of Congress is a member of one of these committees. If not, you may contact the chair of each committee. Find membership and contact info at the following links.

House Armed Services: Chair-Adam Smith

House Foreign Affairs: Chair-Gregory Meeks

Senate Foreign Relations: Ranking Dem-Robert Menendez

Senate Armed Services: Ranking Dem-Jack Reed

Find the contact information for your members of Congress at the following links:

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Background reading: Toward a New Approach to National and Human Security: Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention

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Block Torture Apologists from Top National Security Posts

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

Jan. 6, 2021

Join Us to Block Torture Apologists from Top National Security Posts

It worked! In December, human rights groups helped to block torture apologist Mike Morell from being nominated to lead the CIA. The groups circulated this letter detailing Morell’s lies about torture and contempt for the rule of law. The letter was signed by many torture survivors, including former Guantanamo detainees Mohamedou Slahi, Mozzam Begg, and Djamel Ameziane.

Now we are working to prevent Avril Haines from being appointed as Director of National Intelligence. We need you to take action!

Action Alert: NO on Haines for Director of National Intelligence

Please join CODEPINK, Witness Against Torture, Progressive Democrats of America, Roots Action and World Beyond War in urging Senators to VOTE NO on torture apologist and drone strike authorizer Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence.  

Haines, Deputy Director of the CIA under Obama, signed off on drone murders and co-wrote the guidelines that blurred the difference between enemy combatants and civilians. She also redacted the Senate report on torture from 6,000 pages to a 500-page summary, covering up the CIA’s crimes. In addition, she overruled the CIA Inspector General in failing to discipline CIA agents who hacked into the computers of Senate investigators. So we’re calling Senators to insist that they vote no on Haines.

See the script and contact information below:

Script

Hi, my name is ____________ and I’m calling from zip code ___________ to urge Senator __________ to vote NO on the nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. Haines signed off on drone strikes that made us less safe, suppressed evidence of CIA torture and failed to discipline agents who hacked into the computers of investigators. 

No on Haines!  Thank you.

Contact Info for all US Senators (Write your senator, too.)
https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Call and leave a message for Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader

(202) 224-6542

Senate Intelligence Committee Members

Democrats & Independent

Mark Warner (D-VA, Ranking Member)

202-224-2023

Angus King (I-Maine)

202-224-5344

Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

202-224-5521

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

310-934-7100

Michael Bennet

202-224-5852

Kamala Harris (D-CA, urge her to let Biden know that activists are calling members of the Senate Intell Committee to publicly object to Morell for CIA)

202-224-3553

Republicans

Marco Rubio(R-FL, Ranking Member)

202-224-3041

Richard Burr (R-NC)

202-224-3154

James Risch (R-ID)

202-224-3154

Susan Collins (R-Maine)

207-780-3575

Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)

202-224-5721 (only takes calls during business hours)

Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska)

202-224-4224

Tom Cotton (R-AK)

202-224-2353

John Cornyn (R-TX)

202-224-2934

For more on Haines see:

“Senators Must Reject Haines for National Intelligence”

by Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd 

https://www.salon.com/2020/12/30/bidens-pick-for-intelligence-chief-avril-haines-is-tainted-by-drones-and-torture/

“The Dark Past of Biden’s Nominee for National Intelligence Director”

by John Kiriakou 

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/12/29/john-kiriakou-the-dark-past-of-bidens-nominee-for-national-intelligence-director/
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2021 Fast for Justice: Join us from home

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

2021 Week of Action: January 11 – 15
19 Years of Guantanamo. Shut it down!

See the week’s schedule below. RSVP for these virtual events, gatherings, and actions from wherever you are!

Let’s renew our commitment to the 40 Muslim men still imprisoned in Guantanamo and the hundreds of others who suffered years of torture and abuse behind the prison’s walls.


January 11 anniversary events


Fast for Justice Circles: Monday – Friday

  • January 11-15: Zoom Circles at 8 pm ET each night to support us in our fasting and/or action. Fasting is a personal choice.
    RSVP to receive the Zoom link.

    Circles will be like our gatherings in DC: opening with centering music, a reflection, a topic or theme, checking in with each other and sharing around the circle.

    Monday, J11: WAT history – Discussion with Frida Berrigan and Matt Daloisio
    Tuesday, J12: The US “War on Terror” – Discussion and video with Maha Hilal
    Wednesday, J13: Executions and State/Police Violence – Discussion with Art Laffin
    Thursday, J14: Witnessing Against Atrocities – Discussion with Mark Colville, Kings Bay Plowshares 7
    Friday, J15: Celebrating Our Community Resilience – Celebration with Peace Poets (Lumi and LuAya)


Daily Solidarity Action Menu

Local Vigils Nationwide

In addition to these vigils, check your local happenings (let us know about others to add: witnesstorture@gmail.com):  
  • January 11: Upper NY Veterans for Peace/ Western Massachusetts Peace Action. 
  • January 11 at 10 AM PT: Interfaith Community for Justice and Peace webinar in Los Angeles: http://www.icujp.org/close_guantanamo_2021.
  • January 11 at noon to 1 PM ET: No More Guantanamos vigil, Commons, Greenfield MA.
  • January 11 at 1:30-2:30 PM: No More Guantanamos vigil, Downtown Northampton, MA.
  • January 11 at 4:00 PM: Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace vigil, corner of Delaware and Kenwood Avenues (the five corners) in Delmar.
  • January 15 at noon: Schenectady Neighbors for Peace vigil, corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.

Last but not least, here are some Fasting Tips 2020!

Please join us!

In peace and solidarity, 
Helen, Josie, Maha, Jeremy and Richard for the WAT Organizing Team
 


 

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Martin Gugino – The “Buffalo Protestor” and our Friend

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Update:

Buffalo News | October 7, 2020

‘I’m good. The city is not good’: Man pushed by police speaks at protest

 

June 9, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Matthew Daloisio, 201-264-4424

WAT RESPONDS TO TRUMP’S MALICIOUS TWEET

Trump callously lied this morning on Twitter about Witness Against Torture’s friend and fellow activist, Martin Gugino – the 75-year-old elder who was shoved to the ground and stepped over by the Buffalo police force while protesting the death of George Floyd. WAT organizer Jeremy Varon has written the following op-ed, exposing the person Martin really is and what is truly at stake in this moment.

Martin Gugino — The “Buffalo Protestor” and our Friend
By Jeremy Varon

I too reacted with horror at seeing the video of a 75-year-old man bleeding from the head after being shoved to the ground by Buffalo police. My stomach turned tighter when I realized, “Wait, I know that guy.”  And now the president has tweeted about him, spinning the grotesque falsehood that his fall and terrible injury were somehow a set up.

The man is Martin Gugino. For years we worked together in Witness Against Torture, a close-knit group dedicated to closing the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo and opposing torture. Our community is beside itself.

None of us is surprised that it was Martin meeting the police line in a posture of non-violence. Martin is gentle, principled, and undaunted. Allied with the Catholic Worker tradition, he is also deeply committed to a tapestry of causes, from fair housing to immigrant rights. Guiding his activism is belief in the sacred power of non-violent resistance to injustice. If that makes him an “agitator,” as Buffalo’s police chief slandered him, then the world needs more agitators.

The video of Martin is already part of the iconography of our times, in which every disturbing visual seems a metaphor for something bigger. Eulogizing George Floyd, Reverend Al Sharpton used the image of the policeman’s knee on his neck as a symbol for centuries of anti-black oppression.

Each video clip of police brutalizing protesters points to a much larger system of law enforcement abuse, endemic in communities of color. I saw in my friend’s vulnerability and the scene surrounding him other meanings as well, useful for understanding our troubled society.

A galling aspect of the video is how rows of officers strut indifferently past an aged man lying still and wounded, as if dead. It made me think of the tens of thousands of elder Americans needlessly lost to Covid-19 and the callous disregard shown them by the Trump administration. Its catastrophic response to the virus has entailed the seemingly willful sacrifice of our seniors to Trump’s strongman fantasy of a virile nation. Shove the old, decrepit people out of the way. Step over them. Don’t help them. They were going to die anyway.

Covid-19 is as well an infuriating story of race, with Blacks greatly more likely to die from the virus than whites. The death of Black seniors — often in poorer health and homed in under-resourced facilities — feeds that disproportion.

The shared root of the twin crisis of Covid-19 and racism is the stunning disposability of certain lives in America, no matter its capacities and ideals. The difficult lesson of the current protest movement is to think about that failure in a new way. The police have not lapsed in their mission to serve and protect. For many communities, the police are built to dominate and abuse. Our health care system has not failed to keep us healthy. It is designed to keep only some of us healthy, while lining corporate pockets.

Martin’s abuse signals as well the perverse priorities of our current government. Among the state’s solemn obligations is to protect the lives and well-being of its people.  So too, it must protect the nation’s ideals. For America, the true meaning of “national security” must be the defense of life and liberty.  And yet, rather than tirelessly working to mitigate the virus and safeguard our freedoms, the Trump administration has declared the urgent need to rid public space of the people exercising basic rights. Like in Buffalo, police departments have gotten the message.

My last thoughts about the video are linked to the anti-torture activism Martin and I shared. In his eulogy for George Floyd, attorney Benjamin Crump named what was done to him as “torture.” It was a striking description I had not heard before. Floyd’s lynching needs no added indignity to stir our outrage. But torture has a special sting, both because of its willful cruelty and its supposed alienness to America.  

For years, we in Witness Against Torture vigorously protested what was in fact America’s systematic use of torture after 9/11. Like other human rights groups, we wanted the detained men to be subjects before the law, with basic protections and access to US courts. In our work, we did not think much about race.

Yet Black Lives Matter and other activists impressed on us an uncomfortable truth: that many of the abuses in War on Terror prisons, like solitary confinement, are routine in America’s domestic prisons, holding predominantly people of color. Access to the law, moreover, is no guarantee of justice. Sometimes the law is the problem.

We began to see torture as part of a continuum of state violence, including in its racial aspect. Almost exclusively, the victims of post-9/11 torture have been brown-skinned Muslim men, demonized with the label “terrorist.” Despite the innocence of most of the men historically held at Guantanamo, the law has been all but useless in freeing them. No one responsible for their torture has been held to legal account, including during the Obama administration. Going forward, our group sought to highlight the parallels between domestic and overseas abuses in a vast system of dehumanizing violence.

Dismantling anti-black racism is today’s urgent priority. But abuses of power crave synergies, making other causes relevant. Recall that president Trump is an avowed supporter of torture. His former lawyer John Dowd wrote a bizarre letter, tweeted out by Trump, describing the peaceful protestors cleared from Lafayette Park as “terrorists.” Trump’s own tweet branding Martin as a member of “Antifa” is of a piece with this nonsense that uses baseless fears to justify repression.

Such rhetoric makes an enemy of the American people, threatening to sic on them the tactics of the War on Terror. It seems, as yet, more a sign of desperation than strength — like heavily armored police pushing a 75-year-old man to the ground and the President lying about it. Martin will get up, god-willing, and be back on the streets. The more of us who are there, the more pitifully desperate and disarmed those opposing the tides of change will become.

Jeremy Varon – Professor of History, The New School

jvaron@aol.com

Photos by: Justin Norman, ShriekingTree.com

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Schedule – 2020 Fast for Justice: January 7-12

Fast for Justice 2020 // Film

Tentative schedule.  Please check back for updates.

Everything is at the First Trinity Lutheran Church Hostel (501 4th St NW, corner of 4th St NW and E St NW, WDC 20001) unless otherwise noted.

RSVP by emailing witnesstorture@gmail.com:  include your name, phone number and the dates you plan to be there.  

Tuesday, January 7th: 

Arrive after 2 pm at First Trinity Lutheran Church Hostel; 6 pm meal; 8 pm community circle

Wednesday, January 8th:

Fasting begins:  Fasting Information 2020

9 am: Morning circle and all day planning for WAT action, Congressional visits, and media work

2:30 pm: Leave from church for White House protest against war on Iran organized by Codepink 

6 pm: Community Dialogue

Thursday, January 9th:

9 am: Morning circle and all day action preparation, Congressional visits. 

2:30: Leave church for Demonstration at Union Station. Later proceed to US Capitol for large anti-war coalition rally.

5 pm: Exhibition: Justice for Muslims Collective poster display Shattering Justice & Re-Making the Muslim Threat (at The Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Rd NW WDC) 

 

7 pm: Evening panel: Guantanamo 18 Years Later: Witnessing and Resisting Our Carceral Society (Also at the Festival Center) Facebook event page 

Friday January 10th:

8:00 am: Pre-hearing demonstration in front of Prettyman US Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave., NW.  **Leave church as a group at 7:30 am to head to courthouse.

9 am: Hearing (In re: Ammar Al-Baluchi) at Prettyman US Courthouse (333 Constitution Ave., NW, WDC). 

Options after the hearing:   Congressional visits or Fire Drill Friday demonstration

3:00 pm: Circle

7 pm: Until Justice, We Resist: An Evening of Music, Poetry and Political ComedyTom Neilson and Lynn Waldron (Folksingers); Gustavo Vargas and Cesar Mazat (Wayta); Frank Lopez (Peace Poets); Maha Hilal (Standup comedy) (in the First Trinity Lutheran Church sanctuary) 

Saturday January 11th:

9 am: Morning circle and preparation for rally.  James Yee will be with us for a discussion during the circle. Yee was the first Muslim chaplain, serving at Guantanamo, and author of For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire.

WAT members should arrive at Lafayette Park at 12:30 to be ready for rally

1:00 pm: Justice Now: Close Guantanamo & End Torture Rally (Lafayette Park, in front of the White House) See CCR’s Facebook page for event livestream.  The rally will be followed by a procession to the Trump Hotel.  Mock coffins representing the men who have died at Guantanamo will lead the procession.

5:00 pm: Break the Fast Together

Sunday January 12th:

Breakfast!

9 am: Morning circle

10 am – 4 pm: Retreat (Debriefing, Planning and Enrichment led by WAT organizer Herb Geraghty of Rehumanize Intl)

Monday January 13th: The hostel space is available through Sunday night for those who want to stay over, and in the event of any arraignments on Monday morning

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Come to DC for WAT’s Fast for Justice: Jan. 7-13, 2020

Campaigns // Film

A week of witness against Guantanamo and all it represents

Witness Against Torture will begin to gather on Tuesday evening, January 7th, to embrace the 40 Muslim men still locked up in Guantanamo and the hundreds of others forever scarred and haunted by the trauma of having been there.  We will remember, we will witness and we will move forward in community with each other.

The highlight will be Saturday, January 11th, with a rally and action marking 18 years since the U.S. landed the first plane full of Muslim men bound for that house of horrors.  We’re also planning an evening performance event, a panel addressing mass incarceration, and a showing of Justice for Muslims Collective’s poster display Shattering Justice & Re-Making the Muslim Threat.  See our schedule here.

We invite you to join us to sing, create, plan, witness, act, fast if you wish, and celebrate our community.  RSVP by emailing witnesstorture@gmail.com:  include your name, phone number and the dates you plan to be there.  We will get back to you with housing and other information.  

Fasting-Tips-2020

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Manijeh Saba Acquitted in Jan 9, 2019 Supreme Court Protest Case

Fast for Justice 2019 // Film

March 29, 2019

On March 27, U.S. District Court Judge Deborah A Robinson granted Manijeh Saba’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal of the charge of illegally protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court on January 9, 2019. She agreed that the government failed to show that Manijeh had violated the statute by bringing into public notice a party, organization or movement.  Judge Robinson went on to explain that although she appeared as one of five holding a sign, the sign did not refer to a party, organization or movement.  The sign read, “We Target, We Torture, We Terrify: Who Are We?”  There was no mention of Guantanamo Bay on her clothing or on the sign or in the words to the song they were singing: “Know where you stand — No More War; Know where you stand and stand there!”

Manijeh’s trial began on March 6.  On March 27, she continued her cross-examination of Supreme Court Chief of Police, Jeffery Smith.  Acting as her own attorney (pro se), she asked carefully constructed questions making the point that the charged offenses, and subsequent treatment during over 24 hours in police custody, were far harsher than the defendant’s nonviolent conduct warranted.

Here is an excerpt from her cross examination of the Supreme Court Chief Of Police:

Saba: Were we orderly and peaceful? Smith: Yes

Saba: Is it true that we did not interfere with ingress or egress to the Supreme Court? Smith: Yes

Saba: Was it standard procedure to arrest me?  Smith: Yes.

Saba: Did you know they would hold me overnight? Smith: Yes.

Saba: Was it standard procedure not to have a phone call?  Smith: I can’t answer that.

Saba: Was it standard procedure not to have enough clothing? ….. My outer garments were removed and held, and when I was released from jail without any ID or money I had to find my way back to the Supreme Court without winter garments. Smith: That was transport.  I cannot speak for what happened.

When all the testimony had been presented, Manijeh delivered her Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (MJOA), a motion asking that the charges be dropped. Her statement began:

Firstly, the law is too broad, as Chief Judge Howell articulated [in Hodge v. Tarsi].  The law is intended to ensure decorum and prevent disruptive demonstrations that would prevent ingress or egress to the Court, which did not occur in this case.  Therefore, a conviction for being behind a banner on the lower steps is not in keeping with the intention of the legislature and is an improper application of this law.

Secondly, the charge is for a de minimus violation which should not result in a conviction. There is no signage to indicate that you lose your first amendment rights at the temple of justice, the very place where such rights should be protected. There was no proper warning, since the police could have easily told us that we could lawfully demonstrate just a few feet away on the sidewalk. It is not proper for the police to say that the warning is meaningful, since they say “You are in violation of Title 40″ – am I really in violation of all several hundred pages of that title of the US code?

Judge Robinson obviously understood the reasonableness of Manijeh’s MJOA and the importance of the First Amendment.  After hearing the government’s and defendant’s testimony and reviewing the videotape of the arrests and arrest photos she concluded that the government failed to offer evidence that their purpose was for assemblage or display to bring into public notice a movement.  Moreover, she stated that there was no proof that Manijeh was in a nexus with the people on the sidewalk who were protesting Guantanamo.

Afterwards Mark Goldstone, her Attorney Advisor, said, “Manijeh Saba has tirelessly advocated for First Amendment freedom of speech rights since becoming a citizen many years ago.  She spoke out non-violently on the steps of the Supreme Court.  She defended herself in Court and her voice was heard as she won an acquittal using her voice to speak truth to power.”

Manijeh’s persistence should give us hope, even in the times when we do not prevail in court. She had no idea she would be acquitted when she said in her opening statement on March 6:

I engaged in a peaceful, inspiring demonstration against unending bombing and killing of Yemenis that our government supports.  With respect to Guantanamo, I was protesting the unlawful detentions and demanding the release of five Muslim men who have been approved for release, and 32 Muslim men who shouldn’t have been detained in the first place, as determined by the courts.  I was standing on the safe public grand plaza of the Supreme Court.  I crossed no barrier or barricade.  My conduct was heartfelt and peaceful in defense of my inalienable right to speak for peace and Justice.  Therefore, it did not seem reasonable to me for the officer to stop us from speaking out peacefully by arresting us.  

Manijeh’s legal defense was expensive and although WAT has been able to contribute some from general funds, she’s still got a long way to go.  To help her, write checks out to Witness Against Torture, with “Manijeh legal defense” in the subject line and mail to:

New York Catholic Worker
Attn: Witness Against Torture
55 East Third St.
New York, NY 10003

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Manijeh Saba fell ill during court proceeding: Her trial continues on March 27

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Manijeh Saba’s trial in U.S. District Court for the charge of protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court began on Wednesday March 6th.  On January 9, she and four others were calling out the U.S. government’s complicity in war atrocities against the people of Yemen as well as its ongoing torture of Muslim men at Guantanamo Prison.  They were arrested on January 9, but charges were dropped against three others and Joanne Lingle pleaded guilty.

Early in Wednesday’s proceedings Manijeh fainted, and Judge Deborah A. Robinson scheduled a continuation of the trial on March 27 at 10:30 in Courtroom 4 of the Prettyman U.S. District Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue NW, 2nd floor.  Please come for support, if you can!

After trial preliminaries Manijeh presented her opening statement.  As she spoke, she needed to pause as she became overcome with emotion and also began to feel faint.  Judge Robinson asked if she would like to sit down, but she insisted on completing her statement:    

Good Morning your Honor, I’m Manijeh Saba. 
 
Today, you will hear that I allegedly violated a law by protesting.  I intend to show you that my actions were not illegal, that they were an exercise of my First Amendment Rights.  I will ask you, at the end of this trial, to find me not guilty, because my conduct is protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution.
 
I am a 72 years old Iranian-American mother, grandmother of three, and married to Majid Maleki for 46 years.  I came to the United States in 1977 for graduate studies.  I am a political sociologist with focus on women and development.
 
I was born in Iran, in a military household during a short-lived, decade of burgeoning democracy whose life was cut short, thanks to the US-British coup d’état of 1953.  Hence, I have experienced two authoritarian regimes in Iran, one that of the Shah, and the other the continuing brutal theocracy of the Islamic Republic.  As a result, I know what it means to live under a dictatorial regime.  
 
As I remember, I have always been curious, asked questions, and pushed against unreasonable boundaries. Therefore, resistance against totalitarianism, regardless of where it exists, and however it rears its vicious head, is a fundamental part of who I am.  
 
I became a US citizen in 1996 and have voted in every election since then.  As part of the citizenship process, I took the oath to “support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.  I have great respect for our constitution and carry a copy with me at all times.  I took the pledge of nonviolent resistance and have tried to follow the path of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King who, in the face of violence, gave their lives in promotion of peace and justice. 
 
It is this background that has brought me before you today. 
 
On January 6th of this year, the 17th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo prison, I joined Witness Against Torture for a week in Washington DC to fast, remember, and raise awareness about the 9 Muslim men who died in Guantanamo, and the condition of the 40 remaining in the extrajudicial trap of indefinite detention each for at least 10 years.  Of the 40 Muslim men still detained there, 5 have been cleared for release, as not a threat to security.  The US Federal courts have determined that 32 others are detained unlawfully.  How could this happen in the United States?  I could neither forget nor stand by, when innocent people including the hundreds who have already been released without charge from Guantanamo are targeted and tortured with no end in sight.
 
Also, we spent the week remembering the horrific condition of the people of Yemen due to the US backed Saudi led coalition war since March 2015.  This war is being fought with the support of United States Intelligence as well sale of bombs made in the United States.  This forgotten war on Yemen has so far killed 146, 000 people, at least 70,000 of them children, and has displaced millions of people, causing a humanitarian catastrophe.  On August 9th 2018 a Saudi warplane dropped a US made 500 pounds laser-guided bomb killing 40 school boys and 11 adults.  And of the 79 civilians wounded by this bomb, 56 were children.  
 
On January 9, we marched to the United States Supreme Court protesting all forms of torture and the on-going Guantanamo detentions, as well as the unending wars and mass destruction that our government is concurrently involved in globally, particularly in Yemen since 2015.   
 
Dozens of us, members of Witness Against Torture, most in orange jump suits and black hoods, representing the Guantanamo detainees, arrived on the sidewalk before the steps of the Supreme Court in the early afternoon.  We were singing and chanting, we carried signs and banners denouncing the United States-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen and called for the closure of Guantanamo.  
 
Several people in orange jumpsuits and black hoods laid down on bloodied shrouds on the sidewalk.  We also placed 36 blue children’s book bags on a bloodied shroud, bearing names of the children killed in Yemen on a school trip.
 
At first, I stood without a sign at the foot of the steps.  Later, I was given a sign bringing attention to the boys Killed in Yemen.  I held it up high.  Several minutes later, someone else took the sign and I joined four others who were holding a banner that read:  
We Target, We Torture, We Terrify!   Who Are We? 
 
As we stood there we repeatedly all sang:   “Know where you stand. No more war. Know where you stand, and stand there.” 
 
A short while later, we who held the banner walked up the first few steps of the Supreme Court and stood on the grand front plaza.  It was a place that was safe, open for us, and we posed no threat and or obstruction to anyone who would enter or leave the building.  It was a very cold (about 35 degrees), quiet day with very little public activity on the front plaza of the court.  We repeatedly sang the song, along with our group standing on the sidewalk at foot of the steps.  
 
After a while standing there, a Supreme Court security officer gave us three warnings to disperse or get arrested.  I continued holding the banner and singing “Know where you stand, no more war.  Know where you stand and stand there.”  I risked arrest and did not leave.  Why didn’t I leave?  Because I believed then, as I do now, that the First Amendment of the United States constitution that states:  
 
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, …or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”   
 
protects my action.  
 
I engaged in a peaceful, inspiring demonstration against unending bombing and killing of Yemenis that our government supports.  With respect to Guantanamo, I was protesting the unlawful detentions and demanding the release of 5 Muslim men who have been approved for release, and 32 Muslim men who shouldn’t have been detained in the first place, as determined by the courts.  I was standing on the safe public grand plaza of the Supreme Court.  I crossed no barrier or barricade.  My conduct was heartfelt and peaceful in defense of my inalienable right to speak for peace and Justice.   Therefore, it did not seem reasonable to me for the officer to stop us from speaking out peacefully by arresting us.  Nor does it seem reasonable that they did not offer us the alternative to speak out with others a few feet away on the sidewalk.  There is nothing that distinguishes the sidewalk from the step.  
 
Around 1:00 PM I was arrested along with 4 other fellow protesters, and was taken to the basement of the Supreme Court for processing.  I was not given a phone call.  I was questioned after I said I did not want to speak without an attorney being present. And then, I was sent to jail overnight in terrible conditions before conviction.  My experience in custody of the Supreme Court police of the United State was most unusual and shocking. 
 
Who are We?
 
I appear before Your Honor today, asking if the Constitution condones the arrest and jailing of five peaceably assembled protesters.  It is my belief that it does not.  That is why I was there that day and why I continued to protest.  I will show the court throughout this trial that the law under which I am charged criminalizes peaceful demonstration of dissent, and therefore, it is a thoughtless affront to our Constitution and our values as Americans.  I hope you will find that peaceful political protest is fundamental to our democracy and not a crime in our society.  This is, who we are.

Read to the court on March 6, 2019.

The government then began its case by putting the Supreme Court Chief of Police, Jeffery Smith, on the stand.  Manijeh was sitting down while cross examining him, as she wasn’t feeling well.  Judge Robinson called a ten minute recess for her, but during that time Manijeh fainted.  She quickly revived, nurses and paramedics arrived, examined her and asked if she wished to go hospital but she declined. After the recess Judge Robinson decided to schedule a continuation at 10:30 am on Wednesday March 27 in Courtroom 4 of the Prettyman U.S. District Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue NW, 2nd floor.  

Many local peacemakers were unable to attend on March 6 because of other events, including the annual Ash Wednesday service in front of the White House.  Now everyone is encouraged to come to support on March 27th!

To help Manijeh with her legal defense, write checks to Witness Against Torture with “Manijeh legal defense” in the subject line and mail to:
New York Catholic Worker 
Attn: Witness Against Torture
55 East Third St.
New York, NY 10003    

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