[fla-left] [news] Puerto Rican activists use trespassing trial as a political platform (fwd)

Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Thu Jun 15 10:08:21 MDT 2000

forwarded by Michael Hoover

> Puerto Rican activists use trespassing
> trial as a political platform
> By Ivan Roman
> San Juan Bureau
> Published in The Orlando Sentinel on June 13, 2000
> SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Puerto Rican Independence Party
> gubernatorial candidate Ruben Berrios, who defied federal authorities
> and re-entered the restricted U.S. Navy grounds on Vieques, went on
> trial Monday for trespassing - a minor charge that activists hope will
> boost their cause in a major way.
> In the first legal showdown since federal authorities cleared out 216
> protesters from the restricted Navy grounds in Vieques on May 4,
> Berrios and environmental activist Jorge Fernandez Porto listened to
> prosecution witnesses detail how the defendants were caught after they
> were forced to leave.
> Their lawyers said the pair do not recognize the federal court`s
> jurisdiction over them. They presented no defense and didn`t question
> witnesses. By doing so, they want to force the United States to take
> action."If they jail us, it will expose their abuse and if they release us,
> they`ll lose all credibility," Berrios told a cheering crowd of about 300
> outside the federal courthouse in Old San Juan. "I am not the accused
> here. The real defendant in this court is the Navy`s abuse of Vieques.
> The Navy`s days are numbered."
> When federal authorities moved in May 4, Berrios had been camped out
> on the controversial target range for almost a year, using himself as a
> human shield to block the Navy from bombing there. Monday he was
> tried in the same courtroom where he faced similar charges in 1971 for
> doing the same in the island-municipality of Culebra, which the Navy
> ended up leaving a few years later.
> Berrios and Fernandez were the first caught re-entering the range on
> Vieques and the first to go to trial. Since Operation Eastern Access
> began May 4, about 90 others have not heeded Attorney General Janet
> Reno`s warnings that day and have returned to the range.
> On Monday, 14 people were cited for trespassing after being detained
> over the weekend. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jorge Vega Pacheco, who is
> prosecuting this case, said all will be tried.
> Activists have been trying to get the Navy out of Vieques since a bomb
> dropped during target practice killed a civilian security guard April 19,
> 1999.

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