Nun sent to prison after protesting killings
A 63-year-old nun has been given a jail term after protesting against killings in El Salvador.
Sr. Lil Mattingly, a Maryknoll Sister of Maryknoll, New York, was sentenced yesterday by a court in the US to serve six months in federal prison after demonstrating against the US Armyís Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation(WHINSEC), formerly the School of the Americas (SOA) - a combat-training school for Latin American soldiers and police.
Sr. Mattingly, who lived and worked in Bolivia for more than 20 years, was one of eleven defendants sentenced to prison terms for their actions in opposition to the controversial institution.
ìMy co-defendants and I are being sent to prison while the SOA/ WHINSEC and its graduates ñ including those who murdered my sisters in El Salvador and tens of thousands of others across Latin America ñ continue to operate with complete impunity,î said Sr. Mattingly after her conviction.
The fourteen people on trial this week for nonviolent actions in opposition to the SOA/ WHINSEC range in age from 16 to 79.
In addition to Sr. Mattingly, the group includes a chaplain, a farmworker, a Steelworker, two retirees and several students.
Sr. Mattingly and her co-defendants were among 16,000 gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, home of the SOA/ WHINSEC, on November 20-21 to call for the closure of the school. At the culmination of a solemn ìfuneral processionî memorialising the victims of graduates of the school, fifteen people, including Sr. Mattingly, peacefully crossed onto the military base.
Since protests against the SOA/ WHINSEC began fourteen years ago, 170 people have served prison sentences of up to two years for nonviolent civil disobedience.
The SOA, now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, is a military training school located at Fort Benning, Georgia where over 60,000 Latin American security personnel have been trained in courses including counterinsurgency, psychological warfare and interrogation techniques.
Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and to the suppression of
popular movements in Central and South America.
The movement to close the SOA/ WHINSEC continues to grow. After a meeting last year with Fr. Bourgeois and other religious leaders, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decreed that Venezuela would no longer send soldiers to train at the institution.
SOA Watch, founded in 1990, is a national, grassroots, faith- and conscience-based organization committed to nonviolence. SOA Watch has held a demonstration at the main entrance to Ft. Benning each November since 1990 calling for the closure of the training facility.