In a one-day "trial" on Oct. 17 that has received little media coverage, two Bay Area priests were sentenced in a federal court in Tucson to five months in federal prison for entering Fort Huachuca, a U.S. military base southeast of Tucson, AZ, to attempt delivery of a letter opposing the teaching of torture.  --  In a report posted on Wednesday by Truthout, the attorney for the priests, Bill Quigley, described how the priests were "taken directly into jail from the courtroom after sentencing."[1]  --  Quigley's account focuses on the moral issues but is vague basic journalistic details like where, when, and by whom the priests were prosecuted.  --  The piece Truthout presented as Bill Quigley's appeared several days earlier, almost verbatim and credited to "RHC" (Radio Habana Cuba), on the web site of the Cuban newspaper Ahora.  --  Regardless of who wrote the piece, Cuban newspaper readers were better informed than American newspaper readers.  -- The Phoenix Business Journal devoted a 118-word squib to the case on Friday.[2]  --  A fuller account was posted by California Catholic Daily, an online virtual newspaper that debuted on Jan. 1, 2007, and which replaces four print newspapers:  San Diego News Notes, Los Angeles Catholic Mission, San Francisco Faith and the Spanish-language La Cruz de California.  --  CCD explained that "U.S. Magistrate Hector Estrada handed down the sentences on Oct. 17 to Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale, 74 (formerly pastor of San Francisco’s St. Boniface Church) and Jesuit Father Steve Kelly, 58, (a member of the Redwood Catholic Worker Community).  They were arrested last November for trespassing on federal property during a demonstration called to bring attention to the claim that U.S. intelligence teaches torture interrogation techniques at Ft. Huachuca."[3]  --  The local paper in Sierra Vista, AZ, the community of about 42,000 near which Fort Huachuca is located, took a ho-hum attitude to the case:  "Supporters of the two men will gather outside the federal courthouse today.  It is expected a number of protesters will gather next month near the fort as they have done for many years."[4]  --  Torture?  --  Yawn.  --  The Associated Press devoted a total of two sentences to the trial and sentencing.[5]  --  BACKGROUND:  In addition to housing the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, Fort Huachuca is home to the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade and trains U.S. military personnel in interrogation techniques.  More on the background to the Fort Huachuca case can be found here....


1.

Issues

Report

PRIESTS JAILED FOR PROTESTING FORT HUACHUCA TORTURE TRAINING
By Bill Quigley

Truthout
October 24, 2007

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/102407S.shtml

Louis Vitale, 75, a Franciscan priest, and Steve Kelly, 58, a Jesuit priest, were sentenced to five months each in federal prison for attempting to deliver a letter opposing the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Both priests were taken directly into jail from the courtroom after sentencing.

Fort Huachuca is the headquarters of military intelligence in the U.S. and the place where military and civilian interrogators are taught how to extract information from prisoners. The priests attempted to deliver their letter to Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, commander of Fort Huachuca. Fast was previously the head of all military intelligence in Iraq during the atrocities of Abu Ghraib.

The priests were arrested while kneeling in prayer halfway up the driveway to Fort Huachuca in November 2006. Both priests were charged with trespassing on a military base and resisting orders of an officer to stop.

In a pre-trial hearing, the priests attempted to introduce evidence of torture, murder, and gross violations of human rights in Afghanistan, at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and at Guantanamo. The priests offered investigative reports from the FBI, the U.S. Army, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, documenting hundreds of incidents of human rights violations. Despite increasing evidence of the use of torture by U.S. forces sanctioned by President Bush and others, the federal court in Tucson refused to allow any evidence of torture, the legality of the invasion of Iraq, or international law to be a part of the trial.

Outside the courthouse, before the judge ordered them to prison, the priests explained their actions: "The real crime here has always been the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of torture around the world. We tried to deliver a letter asking that the teaching of torture be stopped and were arrested. We tried to put the evidence of torture on full and honest display in the courthouse and were denied. We were prepared to put on evidence about the widespread use of torture and human rights abuses committed during interrogations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in Iraq and Afghanistan. This evidence was gathered by the military itself and by governmental and human rights investigations."

Fr. Vitale, a longtime justice and peace activist in San Francisco and Nevada, said, "Because the court will not allow the truth of torture to be a part of our trial, we plead no contest. We are uninterested in a court hearing limited to who was walking where and how many steps it was to the gate. History will judge whether silencing the facts of torture is just or not. Far too many people have died because of our national silence about torture. Far too many of our young people in the military have been permanently damaged after following orders to torture and violate the human rights of other humans."

Fr. Kelly, who walked to the gates of Guantanamo with the Catholic Worker group in December of 2005, concluded, "We will keep trying to stop the teaching and practice of torture whether we are sent to jail or out. We have done our part for now. Now it is up to every woman and man of conscience to do their part to stop the injustice of torture."

The priests were prompted to protest by continuing revelations about the practice of torture by U.S. military and intelligence officers. The priests were also deeply concerned after learning of the suicide in Iraq of a young, devout, female military interrogator, Alyssa Peterson of Arizona, shortly after arriving in Iraq. Peterson was reported to be horrified by the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

Investigation also revealed Fort Huachuca was the source of infamous "torture manuals" distributed to hundreds of Latin American graduates of the U.S. Army School of Americas at Fort Benning, GA. Demonstrations against the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca have been occurring for the past several years each November and are scheduled again for November 16 and 17 this year.

--Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He served as counsel for Frs. Vitale and Kelly. You can reach Bill at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more about their trial, see http://tortureontrial.org.

2.

News

Industries

Travel -- lodgings and conventions

ARIZONA BASE AT CENTER OF U.S. TORTURE CLAIMS
By Mike Sunnucks

Phoenix Business Journal
October 19, 2007

http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2007/10/15/daily51.html

Two Roman Catholic priests were sentenced to five months each in federal prison for trespassing on Fort Huachuca, the U.S. Army base in Southern Arizona.

The Revs. Louis Vitale, 75, and Steve Kelly, 58, both from California, entered the installation last year to deliver a protest letter. They worry about interrogation techniques being taught at the Army Intelligence Center there, and that base commanders have ties to Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

The U.S. Army denies charges that torture techniques are being taught at the Arizona fort.

A number of defense contractors also have operations in and around the Arizona base, which is southeast of Tucson, near Sierra Vista.

The two priests pleaded "no contest" to the trespassing charge.

3.

"THE COURT WILL NOT ALLOW THE TRUTH"

** Two California priests get prison terms for torture protest outside military base **

California Catholic Daily
October 20, 2007

http://www.calcatholic.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?id=1b6c4ba4-8608-4ad5-b412-50ac23ee1cab

Two Bay Area priests arrested last year outside Ft. Huachuca near Sierra Vista, Arizona, for protesting the alleged promotion of torture by the U.S. government have been sentenced to five months in federal prison.

U.S. Magistrate Hector Estrada handed down the sentences on Oct. 17 to Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale, 74 (formerly pastor of San Francisco’s St. Boniface Church) and Jesuit Father Steve Kelly, 58, (a member of the Redwood Catholic Worker Community). They were arrested last November for trespassing on federal property during a demonstration called to bring attention to the claim that U.S. intelligence teaches torture interrogation techniques at Ft. Huachuca. The two priests were trying to deliver a letter to then-commander Maj. General Barbara Fast.

During a pre-trial hearing in Tucson last August, Estrada forbade the priests to testify during their trial about U.S. torture practices, international law, the training of the military in the same, the legality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or any political, legal, or moral issues that might have provided a moral "necessity" for breaking the law.

At the August hearing, the priests’ lawyer, William Quigley, asked the judge to dismiss the charges against Vitale and Kelly or, failing that, to grant them a jury trial. Estrada refused both requests.

At the beginning of their trial on Oct. 17, Vitale and Kelly pleaded no contest to the charges against them and said they would accept no sentence that included supervision, fines, or compulsory community service. In other words, they would accept only prison time.

The priests, who were taken into custody immediately after sentencing, prepared a statement explaining why they were pleading no contest. It was read to supporters who had gathered outside the courthouse.

"The real crime here has always been the teaching of torture at Fort Huachuca and the practice of torture around the world,” the priests said in the statement. “We tried to put the evidence of torture on full and honest display in the courthouse and were denied.” The priests said they would have “put on evidence about the widespread use of torture and human rights abuses committed during interrogations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in Iraq and Afghanistan” -- evidence “gathered by the military itself and by governmental and human rights investigations.”

They pleaded no contest because “the court will not allow the truth of torture to be a part of our trial,” said the priests in their statement. “We are uninterested in a court hearing limited to who was walking where and how many steps it was to the gate . . . Far too many people have died because of our national silence about torture. Far too many of our young people in the military have been permanently damaged after following orders to torture and violate the human rights of other humans.

“We have done our part,” said the priests. “Now it is up to every woman and man of conscience to do their part to stop the injustice of torture."

4.

PRIESTS TO PLEAD NO CONTEST TO CHARGES
By Bill Hess

Herald (Sierra Vista, AZ)
October 17, 2007

http://www.svherald.com/articles/2007/10/17/news/doc4715b0145f8c5937740167.txt

FORT HUACHUCA -- Nearly a year after trespassing on this Army post, two priests are scheduled to plead no contest to two charges today in a Tucson federal courtroom.

The Rev. Stephen Kelly, 58, a Jesuit, and the Rev. Louis Vitale, 74, a Franciscan, will appear at 8:30 a.m. to enter the no contest plea to trespassing and disobeying a Sierra Vista police officer during a protest outside of Fort Huachuca on Nov. 19.

Both men, who are facing 10 months in federal confinement, have requested to be sentenced immediately after entering their plea.

An attempt by Kelly’s and Vitale’s defense attorney, William Quigley, to put torture on trial failed when federal magistrate Judge Héctor Estrada denied the request in September. Quigley’s initial defense strategy was an attempt to prove that the priests trespassing on the fort was part of the men’s constitutional right of freedom of speech.

The issue facing the court began last November, when the two priests left the annual protest outside of the post and walked on to the installation. They said they wanted to deliver a letter to then-commander, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast.

The priests declined to stop, leading post officials to take them into custody.

Supporters of the two men will gather outside the federal courthouse today. It is expected a number of protesters will gather next month near the fort as they have done for many years.

Herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

5.

West

STATE NEWS OF NATIONAL INTEREST

Associated Press
October 18, 2007

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20071017-2229-statespotlight.html

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Two Catholic priests who trespassed on the Army's Fort Huachuca last year while protesting military intelligence training there were sentenced to five months in federal prison. Louis Vitale and Steve Kelly tried to deliver a letter to the base commander protesting what they believed was the teaching of torture.