Christians face jail after President's call to visit Guant·namo - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
February 8, 2006

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Christians face jail after President's call to visit Guant·namo

-08/02/06

Seven Christians protesting the denial of rights to prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base at Guant·namo Bay, Cuba, have been served papers by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and face jail terms of up to 10 years.

This is despite the fact that their trip was a response to a challenge by the US president that those concerned with the conditions there should go down and 'take a look'.

The group of twenty-four U.S. Christians, part of the group Witness Against Torture, marched over 60 miles to the Naval Base in an attempt to practice the Christian act of prisoner visitation.

The group camped and fasted for four days at the gate of the militarised zone while awaiting access to the base.

Five hundred prisoners are currently detained by the U.S. government in Guant·namo Bay, Cuba.

Human rights organizations and released detainees have documented torture and extreme prisoner abuse at the base, but the Bush administration asserts that Guant·namo is beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. and international courts of law.

In a response sent through the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture refused to answer OFAC's questions, maintaining that the true crime is the torture and abuse of civilian prisoners by U.S. soldiers at Guant·namo, not the violation of the travel ban on Cuba.

As the U.S. prohibits travel to Cuba, Witness Against Torture members risk a maximum of 10 years in prison or a 0,00 fine for their actions to bring attention to U.S. practices in Guant·namo.

However, their actions were a response to a statement by George W Bush that those concerned with the conditions there should go down and 'take a look'.

"I find it extremely hypocritical that Washington is investigating this group for the 'crime' of travelling to Cuba. The U.S. government is flagrantly violating even the most basic norms of human rights - such as indefinite detention without charges, denial of fair trials and, most importantly, torture." says Michael Ratner, the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which coordinates legal representation for many of the men held at the U.S. Base. "There are far greater crimes at play here than Witness Against Torture's travel logistics."

Marchers included Fr. Steven Kelly, S.J. and 79-year-old Sister Anne Montgomery. Upon return to the U.S. all members of the group openly shared that they had been to Cuba and gave their names and addresses to Customs officials. Despite this high level of openness, the U.S. Treasury Department sent letters of inquiry to individuals that were not even on the trip.

Witness Against Torture member Gary Ashbeck, of Baltimore's Jonah House community, reflects, "We gave U.S. customs all the current information on our group and they were still not able to accurately account for who travelled. It seems that despite all their new methods of spying on U.S. citizens, our government has a very flawed intelligence program. It makes us wonder how good the intelligence is on the cases of those who are imprisoned at Guant·namo. Do they even know who is imprisoned there?"

Related Searches(UK visitors only)

Witness Against Torture
Guantanamo Bay
Amnesty International
CPT

Christians face jail after President's call to visit Guant·namo

-08/02/06

Seven Christians protesting the denial of rights to prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base at Guant·namo Bay, Cuba, have been served papers by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and face jail terms of up to 10 years.

This is despite the fact that their trip was a response to a challenge by the US president that those concerned with the conditions there should go down and 'take a look'.

The group of twenty-four U.S. Christians, part of the group Witness Against Torture, marched over 60 miles to the Naval Base in an attempt to practice the Christian act of prisoner visitation.

The group camped and fasted for four days at the gate of the militarised zone while awaiting access to the base.

Five hundred prisoners are currently detained by the U.S. government in Guant·namo Bay, Cuba.

Human rights organizations and released detainees have documented torture and extreme prisoner abuse at the base, but the Bush administration asserts that Guant·namo is beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. and international courts of law.

In a response sent through the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture refused to answer OFAC's questions, maintaining that the true crime is the torture and abuse of civilian prisoners by U.S. soldiers at Guant·namo, not the violation of the travel ban on Cuba.

As the U.S. prohibits travel to Cuba, Witness Against Torture members risk a maximum of 10 years in prison or a 0,00 fine for their actions to bring attention to U.S. practices in Guant·namo.

However, their actions were a response to a statement by George W Bush that those concerned with the conditions there should go down and 'take a look'.

"I find it extremely hypocritical that Washington is investigating this group for the 'crime' of travelling to Cuba. The U.S. government is flagrantly violating even the most basic norms of human rights - such as indefinite detention without charges, denial of fair trials and, most importantly, torture." says Michael Ratner, the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which coordinates legal representation for many of the men held at the U.S. Base. "There are far greater crimes at play here than Witness Against Torture's travel logistics."

Marchers included Fr. Steven Kelly, S.J. and 79-year-old Sister Anne Montgomery. Upon return to the U.S. all members of the group openly shared that they had been to Cuba and gave their names and addresses to Customs officials. Despite this high level of openness, the U.S. Treasury Department sent letters of inquiry to individuals that were not even on the trip.

Witness Against Torture member Gary Ashbeck, of Baltimore's Jonah House community, reflects, "We gave U.S. customs all the current information on our group and they were still not able to accurately account for who travelled. It seems that despite all their new methods of spying on U.S. citizens, our government has a very flawed intelligence program. It makes us wonder how good the intelligence is on the cases of those who are imprisoned at Guant·namo. Do they even know who is imprisoned there?"

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