US uses 'prostitution' law to prosecute Greenpeace

  1. US uses 'prostitution' law to prosecute Greenpeace

    Jury members are to be selected this week for a trial in which the United States Government will seek to use an 1872 law to prosecute Greenpeace for a protest two years ago when its members boarded a ship carrying illegal wood imports.

    The Government is using the 132-year-old law, which was originally intended to stop prostitutes boarding ships as they approached port, to prosecute Greenpeace and charges the group with unlawfully boarding a cargo vessel.

    Greenpeace USA says the US Government is prosecuting it simply for freedom of expression.

    The case hinges upon two Greenpeace activists who boarded the Jade, a ship heading for the Port of Miami on April 12, 2002, which was carrying Brazilian mahogany that Greenpeace said was being imported illegally into the United States.

    Two Greenpeace activists boarded the vessel and unfurled a banner which read "President Bush, stop illegal logging" before they were briefly arrested.

    Greenpeace says the Jade was carrying 70 tonnes of illegally logged mahogany from the Brazilian Amazon.

    If convicted, Greenpeace faces a maximum penalty of five years probation which it says would seriously affect its work in the United States, as well as a fine of $US10,000.

    "They are intending to silence us," Greenpeace USA's general counsel Tom Wetterer said.

    Jury selection is due to begin on Thursday.

    Greenpeace said it has received support from former US Vice President Al Gore and the Sierra Club, another environmental advocacy group.

    --AFP
    •  
  2. 25 Comments

  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    http://www.democracynow.org/article..../05/18/1743257

    In Miami, a trial has just begun involving the Justice Department and Greenpeace that could have a wide reaching impact on the future of protest in the country.
    The Justice Department is using an obscure 1872 law that forbid sailor mongering to prosecute Greenpeace for the actions of two of its members.
    In April 2002, two Greenpeace activists boarded a ship that was believed to be illegally carrying mahogany from Brazil. They hoisted a banner saying, "President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging".
    The activists were both arrested. They soon plead guilty to misdemeanors. Their sentence was time served.
    But the case turned out to be just beginning.
    15 months later John Ashcroft's Justice Department filed criminal charges against Greenpeace. The trial began Monday.
    We are joined now by Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando. He joins us on his way to the Miami court house.

    AMY GOODMAN: We're joined by Greenpeace's Executive Director, John Passacantando.
    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Good morning Amy. Thank you for having me.

    AMY GOODMAN: Good morning. You are going to the Miami courthouse. Tell us briefly what this case is about?

    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: What's happening is for the first time in our 230 years of history, and in Greenpeace's 33 years of history, the federal government is trying to criminalize a peaceful organization, Greenpeace, for fostering the activities of dissent, the free speech activities of it's activists. While Greenpeace was absolutely behind what these activists did in boarding the ship that contained illegally-logged mahogany from the Amazon against Brazilian law and U.S. law. That wood was not supposed to be cut or imported into the country because it's an endangered species. And in fact, we have plead not guilty. We did not actually break the law we are talking about, the sailor mongering. But that aside, for the first time in the U.S. history the government wants to criminalize the group behind the activists. It's as if the government would criminalize the NAACP, th FCLT, the 1960's civil rights groups. The government has never done that. It's always punished the activists for the free speech activities, but never the organization behind them. It just shows the level, in my mind, that this administration will go to silence its critics.

    AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to John Passacantando. He is Greenpeace Executive Director in Miami. How did this happen? The charges were brought 15 months after the so-called crime was committed?

    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: I'm telling you, it is the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to us in our history. What we did in Miami were the activists went out and met this boat three to six miles off the coast of Miami, put a spotlight on the fact that illegally logged mahogany, destroying the Amazon was coming into this country. We were doing activities like this all around the world and achieved a very successful moratorium that President Bush as window dressing supported, the moratorium against cutting of these trees. Behind the scenes the federal government convened a grand jury, was subpoenaing and questioning my activists, and then almost two years later, we had the first federal indictment of a peaceful, non-violent organization in U.S. history. It is really -- the world has changed in the Bush era, but the judge has granted our right to have a jury trial. A jury was selected yesterday, and I have to tell you that while it is -- you know, a very strange experience for to us be fighting for our rights to dissent and the right of any Americans to dissent, I think we can prevail in this.

    AMY GOODMAN: What does this mean at this point, the timing of this? I mean, whether or not the justice department thought they would win, we're moving into perhaps a time of the most intense protests in a long time as we move into the Republican and Democratic conventions in this election here year. What effect has it had on Greenpeace and also on other groups?

    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Well, you know, it's certainly getting a good deal of publicity. I think there probably are groups that are looking at this and thinking, can we dissent anymore and to what degree can we do that? This is clearly an attempt to have this chilling effect on Greenpeace and to make an example of Greenpeace. I think if we hold our ground and we remain dignified and do our work in the peaceful and clear manner that we always have I think we can prevail and create an example to show that even the Bush Administration, even Attorney General John Ashcroft, with all of their power, can't suppress dissent in the United States because people know, even if they don't do it themselves, that they benefit from the people who peacefully dissent to keep our democracy healthy. I think we can prevail in this, but there's a jury that's going to determine that over the next week-and-a-half.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, what is the process of this trial? What's happened so far?

    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Well, a jury was selected yesterday, and I'm rushing off to opening statements by government this morning and by my lawyers. Then we'll go back and forth through witnesses, and each side will present its case. Then the judge will give instructions to the jury, and we'll see where we stand in a few days.

    AMY GOODMAN: Is John Ashcroft personally involved?

    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: No. His prosecutors from the South Miami office are in the courtroom, and they're representing the United States government.

    AMY GOODMAN: Has this stopped Greenpeace from focusing on the issues of the environment that you usually focus on as you prepare for this trial?

    JOHN PASSACANTANDO: Well, I have to say it's not stopped us. There's planning going on, there's major activities coming, even back in U.S. forests, as they're being put to the blade by many contributors, campaign contributors to George Bush. But I must admit this is costing an enormous amount of money and time. We have a lot of our leadership tied up in this lawsuit, and all I can say is that it's our duty to prevail in this. We're doing everything we can to do so.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much John Passacantando, head of Greenpeace now in Miami for the court case. This is Democracy Now!
  4. by   gwenith
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1112347.htm

    Court clears Greenpeace in 'prostitution' case

    A United States judge has acquitted environmental group Greenpeace on charges it conspired to break the law by sending activists aboard a freighter carrying illegally felled mahogany two years ago.

    The politically charged case dusted off a law aimed at prostitutes and not used since 1890 to bring the first criminal prosecution by US authorities of an advocacy group for civil disobedience.

    US District Judge Adalberto Jordan granted a Greenpeace motion to dismiss the charges after the prosecution rested on the third day of trial, ruling federal prosecutors had failed to prove their case, a Greenpeace lawyer said.

    "We're elated. This is a real victory for America's tradition of free speech," said John Passacantando, the executive director of Greenpeace US.

    "But our liberties are still in jeopardy, of course. The Bush administration is intent on stifling free speech."

    Passed in 1872 to prevent "sailor mongering," the law has been gathering dust since it was last prosecuted in 1890.

    Sailor mongering was common in the 19th century, when brothels sent prostitutes onto ships before they had reached harbour to lure sailors ashore with booze and promises of warm beds.

    The case stemmed from a day in April 2002 when two Greenpeace activists climbed onto the APL Jade freighter just off Miami to hang a sign reading: "President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging".

    Two Greenpeace members were charged and pleaded guilty after the incident and 15 months later, prosecutors targeted the entire organisation with a grand jury indictment.

    Civil rights advocates said the obscurity of the law used to take Greenpeace to court suggested the case was revenge for Greenpeace's criticism of President George W Bush's environmental policies.

    Greenpeace was accused of illegally boarding the APL Jade, as the 294 metre vessel "was about to arrive at the place of her destination".

    It also faces a charge of conspiring to commit that crime.

    US prosecutors argued Greenpeace conspired to break the law by recruiting "climbers" for the seaborne protest and by using a Greenpeace corporate credit card to rent a boat.

    Greenpeace challenged the prosecution on the wording of the law, saying the ship was too far offshore when it was boarded to be considered "about to arrive" at its destination.

    Greenpeace general counsel Tom Wetterer said the statute failed to define what "about to arrive" meant and the judge agreed it was too vague.

    The boarding of the APL Jade was part of a global campaign to stop the illegal logging of mahogany in Brazil's Amazon, a lucrative trade blamed for the destruction of vast swathes of rain forest.

    Advocacy groups had said a conviction would be a blow to Brazilian efforts to win more backing for its fight against the illegal mahogany trade from the US, the biggest market for a wood so valuable it boasts fatter profit margins than cocaine.

    --Reuters
  5. by   purplemania
    While I am an advocate of caring for the environment I do not believe anyone has the right to storm private property in order to protest. That could lead to people forcing their way into your home, to complain about the way you keep your yard or some such. They could have handled the protest another way. They are not the only ones with rights.
  6. by   Q.
    Quote from purplemania
    While I am an advocate of caring for the environment I do not believe anyone has the right to storm private property in order to protest. That could lead to people forcing their way into your home, to complain about the way you keep your yard or some such. They could have handled the protest another way. They are not the only ones with rights.




    In total agreement.
  7. by   maureeno
    the court was in session
    hooray for the judge
    no case

    would we have known about the illegal mahogony without the action?
    how much rainforest should we fell for our picnic furniture?
  8. by   Q.
    Quote from maureeno
    would we have known about the illegal mahogony without the action?
    I don't believe the end always justifies the means.
  9. by   pickledpepperRN
    Quote from Susy K
    I don't believe the end always justifies the means.
    I agree. It becomes more important if someones life is in danger.

    Did anyone die because a banner was hung on the ship?

    Seems someone learned the effectivenoss of banners.

    Remember "Mission Accomplished"?
  10. by   Q.
    Quote from spacenurse
    I agree. It becomes more important if someones life is in danger.

    Did anyone die because a banner was hung on the ship?
    Well actually I was thinking more along the lines of what purplemania stated above; I don't agree with invading private property to protest, even IF the message is meant to "do good."
  11. by   gwenith
    If Greenpeace had been prosecuted for trespassing that would be one thing but they weren't. The real story here is that an old forgotten piece of legislation was dusted off to be used as a gag.
  12. by   maureeno
    the protestors who boarded the boat were prosecuted as the story says
    they pleaded guilty and were sentenced to time served

    the new trial was for CONSPIRACY.....a try to shut down GreenPeace
    again I thank the judge

    another example of federal overreaching showed up today:
    the Portland lawyer our government was so quick to lock up
    for connection to the Madrid bombing
    [despite Spanish authorities always doubting the partial fingerprint]
    RELEASED
    RELEASED
    RELEASED
    no surprise

    we have an executive branch out of control
    thankfully the Constitution still protects us
  13. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    Originally Posted by Susy K
    I don't believe the end always justifies the means.


    Unless the cause is a republican one.

    Yay for GreenPeace!
  14. by   Q.
    Quote from Hellllllo Nurse
    Originally Posted by Susy K
    I don't believe the end always justifies the means.


    Unless the cause is a republican one.
    Wow, I didn't realize you were clairvoyant.

close