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Seventeen People Tried for Protesting Drones in Upstate, NY
On January 25, 2012, 17 people were arrested for symbolically blocking the gates at Hancock National Air Guard Base which is a site where MQ 9 Reaper drones are piloted over Afghanistan, and the domestic center for training MQ9 Reaper pilots and technicians. They stood in front of the gates with banners and and signs calling for an end to drone warfare, and read an Indictment for Crimes Against Peace and attacks on civilians that are illegal under international war.
After more than two hours outside the gates, the protesters were arrested and arraigned on charges of Trespass and Disorderly Conduct, both violations. The protesters were also issued Orders of Protection for Col Earl Evans which require them to stay away from the base. Violating these OOPs, as they call them, carries potential misdemeanor or even felony charges.
On January 2nd of this year (2014) the Hancock 17 went to trial in DeWitt, NY. Fifteen defendants are going before the court Pro Se, i.e. they are representing themselves before the court. They have prepared a defense based on the fact that they were not at the base to break the law, but rather to uphold the law. The way the drones are used in Afghanistan violates Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. There is little coverage of Afghan casualties in the mainstream news but according to a report by Press TV, there were 500 drone attacks in Afghanistan in the last year.
After 12 hours in the courtroom on January 2nd and 6th, the prosecution case is nearly complete. The defendants had an opportunity to cross examine Col Evans, a civil engineer responsible for material operations at the base, and the Security Chief at some length. There were a number of questions about the handling of events occurring outside the Military Installation (denoted by the fence) of the Base and in the Easement which includes a public thoroughfare.
It is expected that the defense case will begin on January 23 and continue on the 24th. The defendants' case is supported by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Mary Ellen O'Connell of Notre Dame who is an expert on Drones and International Law, and by witness from an Afghan youth whose brother-in-law was killed in a drone strike in Maidan Shahr Wardak, Afghanistan.
For more information, please go to http://upstatedroneaction.org/