Christian campaigner released from prison

By staff writers
February 2, 2007

A Christian peace activist will be released today from what has been labelled one of the worst prisons in the country.

Chris Cole from the Fellowship of Reconciliation will leave Wandsworth prison, after being jailed following a nonviolent demonstration against the Iraq War.

Cole was part of a small group which took an action on Holy Innocents Day, 28th December 2004. When they were arrested, the campaigners were digging graves, with a child's coffin ready to be placed in one, outside the Ministry of Defence in London. Chris Cole had begun to inscribe a wall as a memorial with the words "Remember Iraqi War Dead", "Slaughter of the Innocent" and "Stop the War" in red paint. "Father Forgive Us" was also written on the ground.

Prayers of repentance and remembrance were also said.

Four of the protestors, including Cole, were eventually convicted of criminal damage.

Eyewitness accounts report that at the court Cole was very clear with the court that the protest was an act of resistance to the war in Iraq.

Speaking on behalf of the protestors, Chris Cole had previously said “2,000 years ago the innocent were massacred in an attempt to keep the powerful secure. Today, the powerful continue to massacre the innocent with the same motives. There can be no innocent bystanders – we must do what we can to defend the poor and vulnerable.”

He said he could not in conscience pay the fine. He also stated that it was reasonable for him to undertake the action, because the MOD institutions and buildings do not enhance life, instead they killed, maimed and injured.

Cole was sentenced by the magistrate to 28 days.

Due to the current overcrowding of prisons, the magistrates court could not initially specify where Cole was going to be jailed. However he was finally taken to Wandsworth prison.

Wandsworth is one of the largest prisons in Western Europe, built in 1851.

In a report in October, prison's watchdog Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, said the Category B jail with 1,400 inmates had suffered a history of overcrowding and poor prisoner-staff relations.

Inspectors saw "poor" and "abusive" behaviour by staff towards inmates. All wings however now have in-cell sanitation and in-cell electricity is currently being installed throughout the prison.

Those who have visited Chris in the prison report that he has been doing well and enjoying reading the many letters that he has been sent in support of his stand.

He has been locked up in his cell for much of the time.

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