Three nuns and one unholy case /Die drei Nonnen und der böse Fall
Did the the nuns' actions interfered with national defense? / Haben die Aktionen der drei Nonnen die nationale Sicherheit beeinträchtigt?
Vor über einem Jahr, im Juli 2003, wurden drei Dominikaner-Nonnen, Schwester Ardeth Platte, Schwester Jackie Hudson und Schwester Carolyn Gilbert, von einem US-amerikanischen Bezirksgericht zu empfindlichen Gefängnisstrafen verurteilt. (Wir berichteten: "Nonnen wegen Anti-Atomwaffenprotest zu Gefängnis verurteilt"
.) Ihr Vergehen: Sie waren im Oktober 2002 in ein Atomraketen-Silo in der Nähe von Greeley im Bundesstaat Colorado eingebrochen, hatten mit Hämmern eine Betonwand bearbeitet, gebetet und mit ihrem eigenen Blut Kreuze darauf gemalt. Die Anklage warf den Dominikaner-Nonnen vor, Regierungseigentum böswillig zerstört und die nationale Sicherheit der USA gefährdet zu haben.
Der Fall wurde nun vor einem Berufungsgericht weiterverhandelt. Ein Ergebnis steht noch nicht fest.
Im Folgenden dokumentieren wir - nur in englisch - eine amüsante Kolumne, die am 3. Oktober in der Denver Post erschien und sich mit den Gerichtsverhandlungen befasst.
Three nuns and one unholy case
by Diane Carman*
The judge's question was like a bunker-buster to the
heart of the case. After countless hours of pricey
federal investigations, two years of litigation and the
costly incarceration of three elderly, pacifist
Catholic nuns in federal penitentiaries, he wanted to
know: Was all this really necessary?
"Couldn't you have nailed them for trespassing, nailed
them for the cost of repairing the fence and fined
them?" wondered Senior Judge Stephen H. Anderson.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Murphy stood before the
three-judge panel in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
last week and said, well, yes, that was true.
All this, as well as two years of often unflattering
attention from the international media, might have been
avoided if they had chosen to portray the women as
earnest - if occasionally disobedient - peaceniks,
instead of a serious threat to the national defense.
But that is irrelevant, Murphy said.
The trial jury agreed with the government.
Carol Gilbert, Jackie Hudson and Ardeth Platte,
Dominican nuns who have devoted the past 20 years to
drawing attention to the nation's nuclear arsenal and
their belief that it is an instrument of genocide, were
convicted in April 2003 of obstructing national defense
and damaging government property.
The fact that the missiles still could have been
deployed - despite the women rapping ball-peen hammers
on the rails outside the silos and the platoon of
soldiers training automatic weapons at their heads -
was immaterial, Murphy said. There was a principle
The attorneys for the nuns argued that the judge failed
to give "good-faith instructions" to the jury. Critical
information about the definition of "intent to harm the
defense" was not provided, they said.
And the criteria for the legal definition of "sabotage"
were not met by the nuns' symbolic actions, which
included cutting a hole in the chain-link fence
surrounding the Minuteman III missile site, spilling
their blood on the ground in the shape of peace symbols
The judges, however, seemed focused on more
"You contend," Anderson said to Murphy, that the nuns'
actions "interfered with national defense" when troops
were called out to arrest them. "What if these sisters
had some means ... of getting over the fence without
cutting it, and simply raised a banner?" If troops were
called out to arrest them for that, would they still be
charged with interfering with national defense?
No, said Murphy. The hole in the fence and the use of
blood to make their point on the site raised the
charges from misdemeanor trespassing to felony sabotage
in the U.S. attorney's eyes.
(Note to anti-nuke activists everywhere: Next time, try
parachuting onto nuclear missile sites. And always use
fake blood. Banners optional.)
After the hearing, defense attorneys Clifford J.
Barnard, Scott Poland and Sue Tyburski were optimistic.
The judges were well-informed about the case, Barnard
said. They obviously had studied the briefs. They
seemed open to considering the appeal.
"It's hard to guess what the opinion will be," he said.
Impossible is more like it. And there's practically an
unwritten rule against such speculation for fear it
will jinx the case.
But for anyone who has encountered the charismatic
nuns, who pray for their prosecutors and beseech the
Almighty to shower his blessings on all the judges who
sentence them, there is some small satisfaction in the
continuing courtroom drama, if not the prospect of
Of course, the women would prefer not to be in prison.
"It's not easy," said Annabel Dwyer, a close friend of
But through the efforts of an overzealous U.S. attorney
general and a grandstanding U.S. attorney, at least
their message of self-sacrifice, forbearance, love and
peace lives on.
And on, and on, and on.
* Denver Post Columnist. Diane Carman's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and
October 03, 2004 Denver Post
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