Monday, March 31, 2008


The following article analyzing the recent decision by the Third
Circuit to deny Mumia a new trial, is written by Philadelphia
journalist and long time friend of Mumia, Linn Washington. It is an
excellent piece, asserting straight upthat there is NO victory in
this decision as Mumia is not even granted life in prison without
parole, horrific and unacceptable as that alternative is. The
prosecution still has the right to fight for and potentially win the
execution of Mumia. Also, in describing all the violations of their
own precedents that the Third Circuit committed in making this
decision, based on the minority position (remember it was a 2-1
decision), he provides us, through that dissenting voice, a means for
challenging the legitimacy, if not the legality, of this whole
process. We must publicize this information while asserting the
total unacceptability and viciousness of this decision. Read this
article. And let's together fight like crazy to defeat all those f
orces tha
t are determined to silence, execute, and forever imprison our
Observations and analysis of Linn Washington Jr. on the federal
Third Circuit ruling in the Mumia Abu-Jamal case issued on March 27,
2008. Washington, is a journalist and university professor in
Philadelphia who has written extensively about the contentious case
since Abu-Jamal's arrest in December 1981.

The long awaited ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in
the Mumia Abu-Jamal case released on March 27, 2008 again displays
the dismaying pattern of US courts ignoring precedent to deny relief
to this death row journalist whose plight generates international

Precedent in American law means courts following previous court
rulings when determining specific legal issues.

Precedent is the bedrock of American law.

America law requires courts to follow precedent unless significant
evidence and/or compelling rationales necessitate changing precedent.

This Third Circuit ruling changes precedent. This ruling changes
precedent by applying legal procedures in a highly questionable
manner to dismiss compelling evidence of injustice against Abu-Jamal.

The Third Circuit did uphold the elimination of Abu-Jamal's death
sentence. This is no victory because the ruling upheld his
conviction thus condemning Abu-Jamal to life in prison.

This ruling refused to grant Abu-Jamal a new hearing or new trial
on three compelling issues: prosecutors using racism to exclude
African Americans from the jury during Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial; the
prosecutor making improper comments to that '82 jury at the end of
the trial; and pro-prosecution bias by the '82 trial judge during a
1995 appeals hearing.

The Third Circuit previously granted relief to persons convicted of
murder in Philadelphia after ruling that Philadelphia prosecutors had
illegally excluded African Americans from juries.

However, in this Abu-Jamal case ruling, the court found no fault in
evidence of exclusion of African Americans from the jury in his 1982

Curiously, the evidence of exclusion at Abu-Jamal's trial is of
equal or greater magnitude than proof of exclusion previously found
acceptable for relief by the Third Circuit.

These previous rulings on jury discrimination formed the precedent
on that issue for the Third Circuit.

That precedent stated it is wrong for prosecutors to discriminate
against even one black potential juror. Additionally, that precedent
stated defendants did not have to object to jury selection
discrimination by prosecutors immediately when it occurred.

Yet, this ruling reversed precedent on those two points of legal procedure.

A week before this Abu-Jamal ruling, the US Supreme Court granted
relief to a death row inmate in Louisiana because of a discriminatory
jury selection process. That Supreme Court ruling was written by a
Justice on that court who formerly served on the Third Circuit.

That Justice, Samuel Alito, had approved relief to Philadelphia
murder defendants due to discriminatory jury selection practices by
prosecutors. Alito, in a February 2005 Third Circuit ruling, stated
prosecutors commit a violation by removing "any black juror because"
of their race À-- a position similar to the position contained in
that recent US Supreme Court ruling he authored.

The Third Circuit's ruling rested on a procedural finding by two
of the three judges on this appeal's court panel. This finding
stated that lawyers for Abu-Jamal during the 1982 trial and the 1995
appeal hearing failed to follow the procedures legally required to
properly raise the issue of prosecutors improperly using racism
during the jury selection process.

The panel's majority asserted that "Abu-Jamal has forfeited his
Batson claim by failing to make a timely objection" to improper
procedures by prosecutors referencing the US Supreme Court's 1986
Batson ruling that outlaws the exclusion of black jurors for reasons
rooted in racism.

Philadelphia area author and investigative reporter Dave Lindorff
notes the absurdity of holding Abu-Jamal's lawyer responsible for not
strictly following procedures during the 1982 trial that the US
Supreme Court did not create until four years later in that 1986
Batson case.

No lawyer (or judge) in the United States could predicted what
procedure the US Supreme Court would order four years in the future
observes Lindorff, author of the seminal 2003 book on the Abu-Jamal
case: "Killing TimeÁchinin"

In reaching this conclusion against Abu-Jamal's jury discrimination
claim, that Third Circuit panel's majority created a new standard for
persons raising Batson claims in that court.

This standard requires that a Batson violation claim must be raised
at the time of jury selection -- a contemporaneous objection.

Interestingly, in reaching this conclusion of procedural errors by
Abu-Jamal's attorney, the panel's majority failed to note that this
lawyer at 1982 trial was unfairly thrust into the jury selection
process after that process was underway without the opportunity to do
any preparation.

The trial judge granted the prosecutor's request to remove
Abu-Jamal from selecting his own jury, a decision without merit that
unfairly benefited the prosecutor and stripped Abu-Jamal of his right
to represent himself. Plus, this action aggravated tensions between
Abu-Jamal and his attorney.

Further, the panel's majority faulted an Abu-Jamal lawyer for not
properly raising the jury selection racism issue during Abu-Jamal's
first appeal in the late 1989's to the Pa Supreme Court without
acknowledging a major error committed by the lawyer who filed that

That attorney prepared that appeal without ever reviewing the trial

There is no way that attorney could have prepared a legally valid
appeal without knowing what specifically had happened at trial.
(That appeal attorney was also suffering from what proved to be a
fatal brain tumor, a medical condition that impaired that attorney's
cognitive abilities.)

In creating this new standard, the panel's majority makes it harder
to prove Batson violations. Plus, this standard changes that court's
precedent on procedures needed to raise Batson claims.

The judge who dissented from his two colleagues faulted them for
creating this new standard, a standard not ordered by the US Supreme

"This case's newly created contemporaneous objection
ruleÁchiningoes against the grain of our prior actions, as our Court
has addressed Batson challenges on the merits without requiring that
an objection be made during jury selection in order to preserve"
future appellate review, the dissenter said.

This judge, speaking specifically to changing precedent, said since
Third Circuit precedent did "Áchininn have a federal contemporaneous
objection ruleÁchininI see no reason why we should not afford
Abu-Jamal the courtesy of our precedents."

Additionally, this dissenter stated that jury discrimination
practices displayed in a now infamous video-taped training session at
the Philadelphia DA's Office gave "a view of the culture" of that
office during the 1980's when Abu-Jamal was tried.

This dissenter criticized his two colleagues for failing to make
the obvious connection between the discrimination instruction given
at the taped session and discriminatory practices used by
Philadelphia prosecutors before, during and after the 1980's.

"Indeed, given that Abu-Jamal's trial preceded Batson, it is not
far-fetched to argue that the culture of discrimination was even
worse," the dissenter declared.

Previously, the Third Circuit ordered new federal trial court
hearings to collect more evidence to enable full and fair
determinations on jury discrimination claims.

The Third Circuit's ruling rejected that procedure for Abu-Jamal.

This practice of creating new court standards to only apply to
Abu-Jamal was criticized in an Amnesty International report of the
Abu-Jamal case controversy released in 2001.

AI criticized the Pa Supreme Court for altering its prior rulings
À-- precedents À-- to reach results against Abu-Jamal.

In 1986, for example, the Pa Supreme Court overturned a
Philadelphia death sentence after ruling that a prosecutor named
Joseph McGill made improper comments to the jury during a trail
presided over by Judge Albert Sabo.

McGill prosecuted Abu-Jamal in a 1982 trial presided over by Judge Sabo.

Abu-Jamal's attorneys had alleged that McGill engaged in jury
selection discrimination À-- a claim documented by evidence but a
claim that the Third Circuit panel's majority rejected. Sabo's
rulings during that 1982 trail aided this documentable discrimination.

During Abu-Jamal's '82 trial, McGill made the same comments to the
jury that the Pa high court faulted in its 1986 ruling. But when the
Court upheld Abu-Jamal's conviction in 1989 it refused to find any
fault with McGill making the same comments it had faulted him for in
its ruling three years before.

Then, in 1990, the Pa Supreme Court reinstated its 1986 standard
regarding prosecutors making improper comments like McGill made.

The Pa Supreme Court's flip-flopping on this form of prosecutorial
misconduct led Amnesty International to state in its 2001 report
that: "This contradictory series of precedents leaves the disturbing
impression that the Court invented a new standard of procedure to
apply it to one case only: that of Mumia Abu-Jamal."

McGill's improper comments to the jury faulted by the Pa Supreme
Court in 1986 were an appeal issue before the Third Circuit Court.
That federal court panel found no fault in McGill's comments, denying
Abu-Jamal relief he should have received if those federal appeals
judges fairly followed established law.

The Third Circuit panel also rejected allegations that Judge Sabo
was biased during a major 1995 appeals hearing.

Sabo's biased antics during that 1995 proceeding were so outrageous
this misconduct provoked strong, caustic criticisms from even
Philadelphia's normally anti-Abu-Jamal media. An August 1995
editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer blasted Sabo's "injudicious
conduct" that included verbally badgering Abu-Jamal's attorneys and
even briefly jailing one of those attorneys for objecting to one of
his improper rulings.

Scores of newspaper articles from the New York Times to the
ultra-conservativestlaw-and-order Washington Times reported on Sabo's
pro-prosecution bias at that '95 appeal hearing.

The Pa Supreme Court curtly dismissed this widespread journalistic
criticism by contending that the "view of a handful of journalists"
did not convince that Court of Sabo's bias.

Five of the seven Pa Supreme Court justices that upheld Abu-Jamal's
conviction in 1998 received campaign contributions from the lead
group seeking Abu-Jamal's execution, Philadelphia's police union, the
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). One of those '98 justices was the
ex-DA of Philadelphia who as DA fought to execute Abu-Jamal.

The Third Circuit agreed with the Pa Supreme Court's 1998 ruling
that no evidence exists showing a "settled bias" by Sabo against
Abu-Jamal. The Third Circuit panel made this assertion despite
noting Sabo making a series of "intemperate remarks" against
Abu-Jamal and his defense attorneys during that 1995 appeal hearing.

In another flip-flop ruling, the Pa Supreme Court in March 1988
found that a single statement uttered by the judge during the murder
trial of a former Pa State Trooper "was extremely prejudicial" to
this Trooper who killed a woman inside a judge's office.

Where the Pa Supreme Court granted a new trial to that killer cop
because of that judge's one improper comment, one year later the same
Court found no fault in numerous opinion laden statements Judge Sabo
made during the Abu-Jamal trial.

Sabo rejected requests to remove himself from hearing that '95
appeal made by Abu-Jamal attorneys citing his pro-prosecution during
the 1982 trial. News articles, editorials and commentaries all
faulted Sabo for not removing himself stating his failure recuse
himself graphically displayed unfairness in a proceeding where
fairness was desperately needed.

Journalistic watch-dogs normally hostile to Abu-Jamal sought the
face of fairness in that '95 proceeding both to follow established
law and to quell critics claiming Sabo's unfairness against Abu-Jamal
undermined fairness.

The federal panel's majority employed a legal procedure to sidestep
Sabo's clear and illegal bias À-- an Achilles Heel of that federal
ruling and this entire case.

It is incredible to contend that the widely condemned Judge Sabo
who presided during most trial court proceedings in the Abu-Jamal's
case did not violate any of Abu-Jamal's rights at any time À--
despite his history of violating rights in this case and other cases.

Judge Sabo handled 32 murder trials that ended in death sentences
before his retirement. But 24 of those sentences in Sabo's courtroom
had been vacated for errors as of June 2007 according to the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Some of those death sentences were
reverse due to misconduct and/or mistakes by Sabo.

Sabo had once ordered prosecutors to pursue a death penalty when
the death penalty had been ruled illegal in Pennsylvania. Sabo's
ordering that illegal procedure led to overturning that death

This March 2008 Third Circuit ruling leaves Abu-Jamal with few
legal options to challenge his conviction.

Abu-Jamal can appeal the panel's ruling to the entire Third Circuit
Court hoping for that full Court to overturn the panel's ruling.
Further, he can appeal any Third Circuit ruling to the US Supreme

There is a slight prospect of new action in Pa state courts.

The Third Circuit issued an order stating Abu-Jamal will receive a
life-sentence unless Philadelphia prosecutors hold a new penalty
phase hearing seeking to reinstate his death sentence within six

This mini-trial style hearing would allow Abu-Jamal to present
evidence, including new evidence of innocence that has emerged like a
flood since his first trial.

But it is unclear if prosecutors will pursue this route that could
create evidence and procedure that could secure a new round of
federal appeals for Abu-Jamal.

Sadly, the federal judges at the trial and appellate court levels,
like judges in Pa state courts, have refused to uphold the most
fundamental issue in the contentious Abu-Jamal case: the right to a
fair trial.

Critics of Abu-Jamal's conviction from Philadelphia's Francisville
section to France all feel he was denied a fair trial.

Police and prosecutors blatantly engaging in misconduct to secure a
conviction destroys fair trial rights. A trial judge openly biased
towards police and prosecutors destroys fair trial rights. Court
applying the law in the Abu-Jamal case differently from applied in
other cases destroys equal justice rights.

The Pa Supreme Court declared in a 1959 ruling involving a
Philadelphia murder case that every defendant is entitled "to all the
safeguards of a fair trialÁchinineven if evidence of guilt piles as
high a Mt EverestÁchinin"

Abu-Jamal was four-years-old when the Pa Supreme Court issued that
1959 ruling against judges and prosecutors cutting-corners during a

Abundant evidence documents that corners-cut by the prosecutor and
judge during Abu-Jamal's trial and by judges during his appeals
corrupted his rights to a fair trial and equal justice À-- rights
guaranteed by the US Constitution.

In June 2007, state courts in Pennsylvania overturned the 200th
death penalty case since 1978 when that state reinstated executions,
the ACLU stated.

It is incredible to contend that 200 death penalty cases contained
errors egregious enough to be vacated but not a single element in the
Abu-Jamal case warrants either a new hearing or a new trial.
comThe End-

Oso Blanco [Byron Shane Chubbuck] update

From Oso Blanco's website

- “Two Activist/Warriors Banned From USP Beaumont”
by: James Anderson (AKA) Coyote

- Red Alert: received email
This is an enquiry e-mail via from:
I received a letter from James Anderson, aka, Coyote, a friend of Oso's at
Beaumont Penitentiary, dated March 24th, 2008 stating Oso has been
transferred to a prison in Coleman, Florida. His life is in danger because
the people who recently attacked Oso have alerted gang members in Coleman
about Oso's transfer. The warden, John Fox, wanted to get rid of Oso. This
is one way to do that. I have advocated for Oso to be transferred to a
prison in Oregon, but my efforts so far have not been successful.

This is his new address:

Byron Shane Chubbuck #07909-051
USP Coleman I
U.S. Penitentiary
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521

Jeff “Free’ Luers March 23, 2008 Prison Dispatch

It is Easter Sunday, a rather strange celebration to me, after all it’s just another stolen pagan holiday. Yet, I am celebrating the return of spring; the stirring of new beginnings, new life, new hope, another chance. Spring is like a bright, beautiful sunrise after a long night. It brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart. It is a time for planting seeds and hoping they will take root and grow.

For me it is also a time of reflection, not that I really need an excuse; I’m locked up, so I have a lot of spare time for reflection. Still, most of the campaigns and direct actions I’ve participated in almost all started in spring.
Spring isn’t just for lovers it’s for revolutionaries!

My thoughts today, however, seem more focused on the past rather than looking ahead to the future. Though I suppose in a way it is both because as I sit here and recall our past struggles and victories, I worry that someday we’ll forget them.

I fear that we will forget who we are (or rather who we were), where we came from, and why. Recently it struck me that I’m becoming old guard in this struggle, still far from being an elder but certainly not a fresh voice. The many letters I get from those under 20 confirm this and I must smile at the innocent way they have of making a 29 year old feel old.

But that’s what I’ve been thinking about today, because it was just 10 years ago when I climbed that Douglas fir called “Happy” and thus began the Fall Creek/Red Cloud Thunder campaign, which blossomed and sprouted into so much more.

I look at today’s struggle and all that is happening and I realize we’ve moved on from what we once were: A natural process of growth.
But, I wonder if as a part of that process we’ve left behind who we are? Will we so easily forget the road blockades and tree sits, the roaming street battles, the deaths of David Chain and Carlo Guiliani along with numerous others? Ten or twenty years from now what will we remember of our struggles and sacrifices or even our failures?

I look at the lessons we failed to learn from the anti-war and civil rights struggles of the 60’s and 70’s in which I am just as guilty. I look at the warriors of these struggles, many of whom are still behind bars decades later still struggling for their beliefs and freedom, still struggling against the same opponent we struggle against today. When we fail to remember our past, we fail to learn from it. We invariably make the same mistakes and fall prey to the same government tricks.

Any student of social change or any well-schooled activist, who knows a bit of history, knows resistance comes in cycles. American history is full of examples.

The problem is that each time we recreate our struggle in a new image or under a new banner we really believe it is new. We fall prey to thinking that our struggle is somehow different from all those that have come before.

Twenty years from now I don’t care if I’m remembered, at least not as an individual. But what I do care about is that out struggle is remembered and not just by us. I care that we remember why we were in the streets battling cops and capitalism. I care that we remember why we used to risk our lives sitting in trees through bad weather and long winters. I care that we remember and honor the sacrifices of those warriors who give so much of themselves to remain underground and those that gave their freedom or their lives fighting.

These people and these movements represent you and I. They represent all that we have fought and struggled for and all that we believe. They are the embodiment of our movement, our heart and soul. For beyond theory and desire they are the dream and without them we have nothing.

Struggles reinvent themselves time and again (hopefully evolving). They are infused with the energy of youth, young idealists eager to take up the cause. This energy keeps us vibrant, it keeps us alive, but it does not keep us grounded. Only our collective past can do that.

It is easy to look past the sacrifices, the personal struggles, and to let the N30s, the Redwood Summers, the Genoa’s and Vail’s fade into blurry memories of another time. After all, the world hasn’t changed. Sadly, things haven’t gotten better.

But, these are the monuments to our struggle. They are testimonials to our determination and our passion. They speak of our courage and willingness to fight back. These are our movement’s triumph, if only for a little while, because for those brief moments in time we rose above tyranny and we chose to be free, we chose to fight.

It is not that we must never forget. It is that we must always remember. The struggle did not start with us, it will not end with us; this struggle is as much yours as it is mine, as much theirs as it is ours.

Hopefully, the seeds we have planted will become tomorrow’s ancient forests. May we always look on that with the reverence and respect deserved.

Jeffrey “Free” Luers
www. freejeffluers. org

Support for Sadie and Exile Update

Date: Sun, March 30, 2008

Hello All,
Thanks and praise to so many of you for your continuing moral and
financial support for Sadie and Exile. Generous donations and creative
fundraising efforts have kept them in commissary and books throughout
the winter and their spirits remain very strong. We join them in
sending deep appreciation for all the correspondence, books and funds
they have received.

As noted in an earlier message, Sadie and Exile have expressed their
desire to have a website set up. We recognize how useful this would
be and we've appreciated the multiple offers to assist in this
process. Their one imperative is that any website be congruent with
their philosophy and aesthetic and therefore any design work needs to
be coordinated with Exile directly. Obviously, this is an area where
they want to have agency and control at a time when so much of their
autonomy has been stripped away. If you have web design skills and
can volunteer some of your time towards the creation of a website that
will honor these important individuals, please write as soon as
possible to Exile and express your interest in working with him:

Nathan Block #36359-086
FCI Lompoc
3600 Guard Rd,
Lompoc, CA 93436

Also, Sadie has recently requested particular images to decorate her
locker and bulletin board: owls, stags and mermaids are high on the
list, though she said as well she'd love to see trees, bark, fungi,
mushrooms and branches.

Joyanna Zacher #36360-086
FCI Dublin
5701 8th St.- Camp Parks- Unit F
Dublin, CA 94568

Donations of any amount can be made out and sent to:

c/o Maureen Block
328 Slab City Rd.
Lincolnville, ME 04849

In sadly related news, another individual has recently been caught in
the web of the "Green Scare." Briana Waters was recently found guilty
on two counts of arson related to a politically motivated action that
took place at the University of Washington in 2001. This fire has been
linked to the string of arsons that took place along the West Coast
said to be committed by members of the Earth Liberation Front. Briana
has steadfastly maintained her innocence, and was convicted primarily
by the testimony of two admitted arsonists who provided questionable
information to the government in return for drastically reduced
sentences. The judge who heard the case consistently denied defense
motions, and serious questions about the proceedings remain for many.
An appeal is likely. Briana was taken from her family (including her 3
year old daughter Kalliope) on Thursday immediately after the verdict,
due to spurious allegations that she was a "flight risk," and is
currently being held at a detention center in Seattle awaiting
sentencing. Being separated from her partner and daughter in this way
must be excruciating. We encourage you to write her when possible to
express your support for her. Please do not mention her case in any
way. A simple expression of empathy will undoubtedly be a balm for her
at this time...

Briana Waters #36432-086
FDC Seatac
Federal Detention Center
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198

For more information on Briana's case, please check out: (sear

Thank you and be well.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Eric McDavid's Sentencing Moved to April 10

Urgent ELP! Bulletin (30th March 2008)

Dear friends

ELP has just learnt that the American vegan activist, Eric McDavid, has had his sentencing put back again! ELP has lost count of how many times Eric's sentencing has been put back since his guilty verdict, where he was convicted of conspiring to carry out ELF actions (please note: no actions were actually carried out. He was found guilty of merely thinking about doing something illegal!)

For anyone who has ever awaited sentencing you'll know how awful this period is. Your life goes on hold. All of the hope of a not guilty verdict, you kept with you throughout the trial, has gone. Whilst awaiting your sentencing you can't do anything. After you are sentenced you have an end date. Even if its a long way away, you have an end date. But whilst awaiting sentencing there is no end date. Nothing to look forward to. You imagine the worse. As you dare not hope, for fear of disappointment. So in Eric's mind he'll be preparing himself for a 20 year sentence.....

The fact Eric's sentencing has been put back again is nothing but pure psychological torture for Eric. His morale will be at rock bottom with this news. So please please please send Eric a message of support today to help keep him strong.

Eric McDavid X-2972521 4E231A
Sacramento County Main Jail
651 "I" Street
CA 95814

Below is a message from Eric's support campaign. Please help Eric in every way you can, but above all, please send him a letter of support.

Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2008 13:49:29 -0700
Subject: Eric's Sentencing Moved to April 10

Dear friends,

We just wanted to let everyone know that, much to our dismay, Eric's
sentencing has been pushed back yet again. Sentencing is now on calendar
for Thursday, April 10, at 9 am.

If you are able, please consider attending Eric's sentencing to show your
support for him in the courtroom. Please remember to come dressed
appropriately for court. We will continue to keep everyone updated of any



Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
BM Box 2407

April Anarchist Birthday Brigade list

Here is the Anarchist Birthday Brigade list for April.
Please take a moment out of your time to send our
imprisoned comrades a message of support.


April List

AM4975 / Box 244
Grateford, PA 19426-0244
SCI Grateford
April 7, 1956

West Tennessee State Penitentiary
PO Box 1150
Henning, Tennessee 38041-1150April 9, 1942

B-27527 / CSP-CENT
FC-2-110 / Box 921
Imperial, CA 92251
April 11, 1949

OO6308 / 451 Fullerton Ave
Cambridge Springs, PA 16403-1238
April 13, 1951

MD. Correctional Training Center
18800 Roxbury Rd.
Hagerstown, MD 21746
April 23, 1946

175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370-8090
April 24, 1954

OO6309 / 451 Fullerton Ave
Cambridge Springs, PA 16403-1238
April 25, 1956

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Feds say they won't retry Waters in university ecoterror fire
AP Legal Affairs Writer
Federal prosecutors have agreed not to retry convicted University of Washington arsonist Briana Waters on a charge that could have sent her to prison for an automatic 30 years.
Waters was convicted this month on two counts of arson stemming from an ecoterror fire that destroyed the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001. But the jury deadlocked on three other counts, including the big one, using a destructive device during a crime of violence. That carried a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison.
In an agreement signed Thursday, the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle said it won't hold a new trial on the deadlocked counts, and moved to dismiss those charges.
In exchange, Waters agreed that if a federal appeals court overturns her conviction, the government can refile the charges _ even if the statute of limitations has run.
Waters, a 32-year-old violin teacher from Oakland, Calif., faces five to 20 years when she's sentenced May 30. Prosecutors said she acted as a lookout for other Earth Liberation Front activists who set the fire, and obtained a rental car used in the crime.
"The jury held Ms. Waters accountable for the criminal conduct at the heart of this case: the arson of the Center for Urban Horticulture," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan said in a news release. "After careful consideration, we feel the interests of justice are served by moving forward with Ms. Waters' sentencing on those counts of conviction."
One of her attorneys, Neil Fox, said he had no comment on the agreement.
The university fire was one of at least 17 fires set around the West from 1996 to 2001 by an Olympia, Wash., and Eugene, Ore., cell of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. The plant research center was targeted because the activists mistakenly believed scientists there were genetically engineering poplar trees. The center was rebuilt at a cost of $7 million.
A professor whose research was destroyed, Sarah Reichard, testified during the trial that the arson had devastated her, turning her from someone who backpacked alone in South America to someone who cowered in her home when a Greenpeace volunteer came to the door.
Two women who pleaded guilty testified against Waters, and rental car records suggested she obtained a vehicle used in the crime. Her lawyer, Robert Bloom, insisted during closing arguments that the women, Lacey Phillabaum and Jennifer Kolar, lied on the witness stand in an attempt to frame her and win lighter sentences.
The other two alleged participants in the UW fire were William Rodgers, who committed suicide soon after his arrest, and Justin Solondz, Waters' boyfriend at the time, who remains at large. Prosecutors said Solondz constructed the incendiary devices used in the fire in a clean room behind Waters' home in Olympia.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Angola 3 Prisoners Out of Solitary After 36 Years

Two moved out of solitary at Angola, LA Prison

by Gwen Filosa, The Times-Picayune
Thursday March 27, 2008, 9:24 AM

Free the Angola 3:

For the first time in almost 36 years, two state prisoners from New Orleans serving life for the 1972 murder of a guard have been moved from solitary confinement into a special dormitory created for maximum security inmates.

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox were moved from solitary into a maximum security dormitory Monday, said Angie Norwood, assistant warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Wallace and Woodfox had been in solitary since their convictions in the death of guard Brent Miller, who was stabbed to death at a time when the prison was segregated and a Black Panther Party chapter had been formed there.

Wallace and Woodfox, who with a third inmate were known to supporters as the "Angola Three," have said their 36 years of solitary confinement at the prison amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Both are appealing their convictions. Both were serving time for armed robberies when the prison blamed them for Miller's killing.

The men's lawyers, who have recently captured national attention with the Angola Three's story, said they were taken by surprise with the move.

"They just did it," attorney Nick Trenticosta said. "It has nothing to do with what we did in the lawsuit. We've been in negotiations to settle the lawsuit. We had no knowledge or forewarning that they would be moved to a dormitory. It is a dorm created just now."

Wallace and Woodfox have sued the state over their stay in solitary confinement at Angola, where they and others are kept in single cells for 23 hours a day and only released for showers and exercise.

"This is no longer a secret," said Trenticosta, who plans to visit his clients Friday at the prison located about 2 1/2 hours from New Orleans.

Robert King, the third member of the Angola Three, had his conviction for killing another inmate overturned. He was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement. King formerly used the surname Wilkerson.

. . . . . . .

Gwen Filosa can be reached at or (504) 826-3304.

Mon. April 7th-11th Avelino Gonzalez Support Week


ProLibertad is calling on all our allies and supporters to fax out our letter of support (top of the page) to end the torture and inhumane conditions Avelino is being subjected to.
Public Pressure campaigns work!! Fax out thE letter and motivate your friends to do likewise. DON'T THINK YOU CAN'T HELP AVELINO!! OUR MASS LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGNS CAN HAVE AN IMPACT!!

The idea is to fax the entire week and tie up their fax lines all week!!

Avelino González . . . A Tireless Fighter

In August of 1985, Avelino González, along with other Puerto Ricans and 2 North Americans, were accused of having participated in the planning and authorization of an operation to secure $7,117,000.00 from a Wells Fargo armored truck in Hartford, Connecticut on September 12, 1983. That operation was carried out by the then PRTP-Macheteros. They are accused of being part of the Central Committee and Political Commission of the PRTP-Macheteros. Avelino, his brother Norberto and Victor Gerena, the main person accused, could not be arrested at that time. Norberto and Victor remain underground to this day.

The charges against those arrested that year ended in a trial of a group of the accused (Carlos Ayes, Filiberto Ojeda, Juan Segarra, Norman Ramirez and Roberto Maldonado) in 1989 and finally led to a political-legal agreement in 1992 with the accused Orlando González, Hilton Fernández Diamante, Jorge A. Farinacci, Isaac Camacho, Elías Castro and Angel Días Ruiz and later led to another trial of the accused Ivone Meléndez Carrión. The legal agreement reached recognized the Macheteros as a political organization that fights for the independence of their homeland.

Avelino was born in the town of Vega Baja on October 8, 1942. Since his days as a student in the public schools of his country he established himself as a fighter for the freedom of his homeland. Upon entering the University of Puerto Rico he became a member of the Pro-Independence University Federation (Federación Universitaria Pro Independencia –FUPI), a student organization founded in 1956 that has stood out for its struggle for university reforms to improve conditions at the university for our people. Avelino became its vice-president. Avelino stood out as one of its best militants and as a person for whom no task was too small or too big to take on.

Since becoming a student he embraced socialist ideas as his own, becoming a constant student of the history of our working people and their struggles, as well as, studying the socialist ideological classics. He always stood out for his knowledge of the history of the workers’ international struggles and their revolutions.

He married in the mid-1960’s and had 4 children who today are part of the professional classes of our country. At that time he moved to New York City where he lived until the beginning of the 1970’s. He worked in Wall Street in that city while he carried out political work with the Puerto Rican community and organized part of the resistance of the revolutionary forces that were beginning to organize themselves in “the belly of the Yankee beast” and had begun to stand out by the end of the 1960’s. Avelino became part of the leadership of the Vito Marco Antonio Mission of the Movemento Pro-Independence (MPI) in New York.

Avelino returned to his homeland to integrate into the political work where he stands out as one of its most capable and disciplined leaders. At the time of the arrests in 1985 he was known for his role in the administration of the operations of the political magazine Pensamiento Crítico (Critical Thought). It is at that time that he becomes one of the Puerto Ricans most sought by the enemy and he transforms himself into the citizen José Ortega.

Upon getting to know Avelino as one of the leaders most committed with his ideas of freedom for our homeland and the program of struggle of his organization, we do not doubt that he has been in the heart of our people, struggling alongside them for their civil rights to freedom and social justice for its working classes. Many have been the trenches of struggle of this well-known leader and militant of the revolutionary struggles of our people and its movement for national liberation for the past 50 years.

Following the arrests of August 30, 1985, Avelino became part of the struggles of our people as “José Ortega”. For the past 22 years he alluded the enemy and was able to participate not only in the struggle for our peoples liberation but also as a worker and computer teacher where he realized work for the improvement of the services provided by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico.

Avelino is known for his calm tolerant manner but at the same time for his firmness in the _expression of his positions and political ideas. For him there is no room for hypocrisy when it’s time to combat ideas that he considers incorrect. His personality, his demeanor and his ideas regarding the necessity for unity in the liberation movement led him to always espouse that differences should not be a motive for divisions. He has never been heard to make mean-spirited or derogatory accusations of those he has political differences, either in his organization or toward those outside it with whom he has differences because of their political practice or strategy. He said in his first communication after his arrest, “ . . . Pandora left desperation out of her box and because of this they may chain and imprison my body, but never my spirit and my ideas”

Avelino today finds himself incarcerated in a state prison in the city of Hartford in conditions of “maximum security”. 23 hours in isolation in a jail cell, with one hour to get fresh air, with no access to his family and denied communication by telephone with his family members, his lawyers or friends. They propose to judge him, as they have his comrades in struggle, faraway from his Puerto Rican homeland.

The U.S. government must recognize Avelino’s status as a fighter for independence and a political prisoner, as he demanded in its imperial courts!

We know that Avelino is man in very good health at the time of his arrest and we hope that he remains so. Any change in his health condition will be the responsibility of his enemy jailers.

Let Us Support The Defense of Avelino!

Comité familiares y Amigos de Avelino González Claudio

Friends and Family of Avelino González Claudio

apartado postal #22282

San Juan. P.R.00931-2282

Recent letters in EW in support of Jeff "Free" Luers

On Feb. 14, 2007, Jeff Luers received a long overdue Valentine when the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the prison sentence of almost 23 years imposed on him in 2001 by Judge Lyle Velure. Recently Judge Jack Billings reduced Velure's disproportionately harsh, politically motivated, and illegal sentence to 10 years.
Just a few days after Judge Billing's ruling, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Portland forced a return to federal court for the victims of pedophile priests in the 175 cases settled last year. They refused to release documents currently kept secret under seal in the bankruptcy court file — even though Archbishop John Vlazny had promised openness regarding how much church leaders knew about the abuses and subsequent cover-ups. "Getting the secrets out," said abuse-victim attorney Kelly Clark, "was a big part of what my clients wanted." The Archdiocese also insisted that victims who file new lawsuits be identified by name in court proceedings, despite the time-honored practice of using only victims' initials to safeguard them in child sex abuse lawsuits.
Here's the kicker: Judge Velure, now retired, will mediate the question of which, if any, documents are released. If the two sides do not agree, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan will settle the matter through binding arbitration. Velure and Hogan worked together to protect the financial interests and the secrecy of the Archdiocese in negotiating the original settlement.
How convenient for the Portland Archdiocese. Let's hope that the sexual abuse victims of pedophile priests receive more justice than Jeff Luers did. Don't, however, hold your breath.
Jerome Garger, Yachats
On Feb. 28, environmental activist Jeff Luers' 22 years and 8 month sentence was reduced to 10 years. Mr. Luers was resentenced to 90 months for an admitted June 16, 2000, arson that caused $50,000 of reparable damage to three trucks, and to 30 months for an alleged, but denied, May 27, 2000, attempted arson that caused $0 in damage.
If Lane County Assistant DA Hasselman had decided that Luers could serve the 90 months for the admitted Romania fire and the 30 months for the Tyree non-starter concurrently, he would have been free to leave the courtroom with the rest of us at 9:30 am because he has been incarcerated since his June 16, 2000, arrest, 92 months ago.
But Hasselman argued that Jeff should serve the 90 and 30 month sentences consecutively. Judge Billings agreed, even though he described Luers' statement as the most impressive he'd heard in 35 years as a lawyer, compared him to a returning war hero and heaped praise on Luers' male lawyers, Hugh Duvall and Jesse Barton. Judge Billings did note Luers' female lawyer, Lauren Regan.
As a resident of Lane County, I am disgusted that Luers did not walk out a free man on Feb. 28. It is not surprising that Luers was the most thoughtful defendant Judge Billings has encountered in 35 years — Luers was the most thoughtful and honorable man in the courtroom on Thursday.
Deborah Frisch, Eugene

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Marie Mason released/preparing for trial

Date: Thu, March 27, 2008

We are happy to report that despite a mind numbing amount of red tape and
drama from the probation dept. and the associated electronic tether, Marie
was released from jail Tuesday. She is under house arrest at a relative's
house and only able to go outside with permission 2 hours a week. She also
needs special permission to go see her lawyer because his office falls
outside the western district. There is a tentative trial-date set for May
27, 2008, but we have been informed by counsel that this date will almost
certailnly be pushed back as there has not been adequate time to prepare
the case.

Marie is under strict rules from the court as to who she can be in contact
with. Because of this we are encouraging anyone who wishes to be in
contact with her EMAIL your contact info to and we
will pass it along.

In a recent phone call she wanted to express gratitude for all the letters
of support and offers of help saying "Please let everyone know how much I
love them and how thankful I am for all the support. When I was locked up
I was basically cut off from the world and had no idea what was going on
outside. The letters were especially helpful shining light during those
dark times."

We are grateful to all who have donated to Marie's legal defense fund. If
you havent already we would like to encourage you to support Marie. We are
also happy to announce that the magazine Fifth Estate is matching
donations dollar for dollar up to $1000. In order for Fifth Estate to
match your donation, it must be sent through their mailing address.
Please send cash, check, or money order made out to the Fifth Estate at
POB 201016, Ferndale MI 48220. This matching offer is only good through
April 15. Please give generously, we need your help.

Also, the General Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World
(IWW) has issued a $10 assessment stamp for members, the proceeds of which
will go to Marie and the other non-cooperating defendants. Additionally,
any individuals who choose to join the GDC in March, April, or May can
choose to have their entire one-year membership fee ($25 donated to the
support of Marie and the other non-cooperating defendants. We are
encouraging individuals to join and specifically choose to have their
membership fees donated to this support effort. You do not need to be a
member of the IWW to join the GDC. For more information on the GDC and how
to join, look to

thank you all again for your support.

Got Your Back
Friends of Marie Mason
P.O. Box 19065
Cincinnati, OH 45219

Urgent Update from supporters of Marie Mason

Date: Thu, March 27, 2008

Breaking information: It has come to our attention that the F.B.I. are
actively attempting to contact people involved in support work for these
defendants. We would like to remind everyone that they are under no
obligation whatsoever to speak with law enforcement under any
circumstances without an attorney present. Additionally, if you do choose
to speak to law enforcement, and are found later to have been untruthful
in any way, this constitutes basis for criminal prosecution.

The National Lawyers Guild has established a hotline, 888-NLG-ECOL, for
individuals arrested or subpoenaed for offenses related to environmental
or animal activism. Please feel free to call them if you are contacted by
law enforcement and would like to consult with an attorney on these

Got Your Back
Friends of Marie Mason
P.O. Box 19065
Cincinnati, OH 45219

American Youth accused of Anti-Sprawl Arson

Urgent ELP! Bulletin (27th of March 2008)

Dear friends

An American 17 year old youth, Michael Sykes, has been arrested accused of setting fire to two newly constructed houses. The cops have told the media that Michael has admitted the arson attack saying he did it in protest against urban sprawl. The cops also state he has admitted to torching a supermarket and a string of vandalisms, including damaging an 80-foot utility pole, painting an anarchist symbol and burning the American flag.

Despite the cops claim that Michael has admitted these offences he has pleaded not guilty in court and has been remanded into custody.

Please send letters of support to:

Michael W. Sykes
100 East 2nd St
Michigan 48161

Below is a mainstream media article about Michael:

Article published Thursday, March 27, 2008 -

Acused Arsonist May Get Plea Deal

MONROE - A plea bargain could be in the works to resolve criminal charges
against the Lambertville teenager accused of setting fires that caused
more than $500,000 damage to unfinished homes in Bedford Township, his
attorney said in court yesterday.

Michael W. Sykes, 17, of 7472 Canterbury Drive, appeared in Monroe County
District Court for a pretrial hearing on arson and home invasion charges
stemming from a March 14 fire that destroyed a house being built on
Brentridge Lane.

At the request of the youth's attorney, Judge Mark Braunlich waived a
preliminary exam scheduled for Monday.

The defense attorney, Andrew Peth, told Judge Braunlich that a preliminary
exam may not be necessary because he was in discussions with prosecutors
about a possible resolution that would avoid the case going to trial.
Judge Braunlich scheduled a pretrial hearing for April 9.

Investigators said the teenager confessed to the arson fire at the
unfinished home on Brentridge and admitted setting fire two days earlier
to a nearby condominium on Fountain Circle in a subdivision off Douglas

He was arrested March 16 when he attempted to siphon gasoline from the
vehicle of an undercover Monroe County sheriff's deputy, who was among
nearly a dozen officers working in a stakeout to catch the arsonist
responsible for the fires.

According to detectives, the Sykes youth, who is being held in the county
jail in lieu of a $1 million bond, admitted to setting the arson fires
because of his dislike for the development of new homes in the Toledo
suburb and the cutting of trees to build houses.

Assistant Prosecutor Michael Roehrig said later in an interview outside
the courtroom that discussions have been held with the teenager's attorney
to reach a possible resolution.

"But nothing has been reached at this date," he added.

In addition to arson fires that destroyed the homes, authorities said the
teenager confessed to setting earlier fires in the condo in Crystal Water
Villas and attempting to chop down an 80-foot utility pole along Sterns
Road on March 14.

The teenager also confessed to stealing an American flag from a residence
near Sterns and painting the anarchist symbol - the letter "A" inside a
circle - on it.

Mr. Roehrig said the investigation into the incidents was being reviewed
to determine possible charges, but a decision had not been made.

Sheriff's Detective Tom Redmond said the teenager also admitted to
committing arson fires when he was 15, including the January, 2006, blaze
behind the Kroger store at Sterns and Secor roads in Lambertville that
destroyed a semi trailer and filled the store with smoke.

The teenager's parents attended the court hearing. They talked privately
to their son as deputies were escorting him from the courtroom, where he
was to be taken back to the jail.

Contact Mark Reiter at:
or 734-241-3610.


Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
BM Box 2407

Upping the Anti for our Political Prisoners: Global Lessons for US activists

by Kristin Bricker
Ask anyone who isn't from the United States to name the top five strategic and political miscalculations of the US left, and they're bound to include abandonment of political prisoners on the list. A popular Mexican protest chant explains why this
is such a grave error: “We're not all here! Our political prisoners are missing!” In order to build an effective movement in the United States, everyone who believes in justice and democracy has to struggle together, and this includes political prisoners. As long as activists allow political prisoners to languish in prison cells, those on the outside can't be truly free. Our tactics and strategies are constricted by the very real fear that when we're thrown in jail we're going to be forgotten by the movement, left alone to carry out our sentences in full. Or, as the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca's exiled Dr. Bertha Muñoz puts it, we'll be “buried alive.”

Vibrant struggles for political prisoners' freedom exist all over the world. Since the 2006 police riot in San Salvador Atenco that resulted in 207 arrests, Mexico has seen a revitalization of its political prisoner support movement.

The latest of a series of actions, cultural events, and meetings in support of Mexican political prisoners, the Forum for Freedom of the Country's Political Prisoners of Conscience, took place in Oaxaca City, Mexico, from March 14-16, 2008. It brought together former and current political prisoners, exiled activists, and supporters from Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco, Mexico City, and San Salvador Atenco. They came together to articulate and coordinate the movement to demand the release of all political prisoners in the country.

The forum consisted of one and a half days of a plantón (protest camp) and a more intimate hours-long meeting to create a plan of action for a nation-wide struggle to free political prisoners. The weekend ended with a march demanding unconditional release of all political prisoners through Oaxaca City to the military base/prison where Oaxacan political prisoners are held.

Mexico has a rich history of struggle for the release of prisoners of conscience and the presentation of disappeared persons alive. During the Dirty War in 1969-1988, for example, Mexico had 788 documented cases of disappeared persons. This large number of compañeros who were missing or imprisoned instead of organizing in the streets had a negative impact on the movement. In response, collectives and organizations organized to demand the unconditional freedom of all of their political prisoners, forcing the federal government to pass an amnesty law in 1978. Many amnesty laws also exist at the state level.

These amnesty laws are always completely insufficient because most political prisoners are not imprisoned for sedition or rebellion, but rather invented charges of drug possession, kidnapping, or murder. This meant the grand majority of political prisoners are not released under the terms of amnesty. Even more politically problematic, “amnesty” has its roots in the Greek word for “forgetting,” and amnesty laws all over the world have honored the true meaning of the word: in order to receive amnesty, political prisoners must forget about the injustices they have suffered and never seek reparations or punishment for those responsible for their imprisonment. In other words, amnesty does not equal justice. However, Mexican activists forced a painfully corrupt, brutal one-party dictatorship to pass an amnesty law, tacitly admitting that it did in fact have so many political prisoners that it merited a special law to free them rather than handling their cases one-by-one. This is an incredible testament to the power and possibilities of a sustained prisoner solidarity movement.

They're all political prisoners

In order to create a viable movement in the United States for political prisoners' freedom, its important to define the term “political prisoner.” Whether or not it's explicitly stated, there is a prevailing opinion among the US left that some political prisoners are more worthy of solidarity and struggle than others. For example, Mumia Abu-Jamal maintains his innocence in a Philadelphia police officer's death, so he is imprisoned on purely political grounds and merits marches and civil disobedience for his freedom. Environmental activist Daniel McGowan, on the other hand, admitted that he committed a crime: arson. His support committee consists mainly of his friends and family, and there aren't “Millions for McGowan” marches demanding his freedom.

In addition to activists who were railroaded through the courts as result of their lawful political activity, those who commit crimes as part of the struggle are also political prisoners. As Atenco political prisoner Pedro Rivero puts it, “The ruling class' laws don't respect us, so why should we respect their laws?” So-called “eco-terrorists” break the law because they're doing what they think will best help protect us and future generations. Whether or not their actions make a difference, and whether or not we believe what they did was the most effective tactic, they did it for us and our children. For that reason, Rivero says of Mexican prisoners who have indeed broken the law, “We demand their freedom. Give us a list of your political prisoners [in the United States] and we'll demand their freedom, too.”

Changing the rules of the game

Like many struggles in the United States, activists allow the government to restrict, weaken, and distract political prisoner freedom movements with laws that define the terms of struggle. As long as the movement continues to play by the government's rules when it comes to political prisoners, relying on the state's courts and judges to carry out its version of justice, activists will always lose. Arrested activists can't avoid the court system, but we can't allow it to dictate our struggle for our prisoners' freedom, either. Political prisoners and allies go through the court system to expose its contradictions and injustices, but not to win their freedom. The key to beating the system, Pedro Rivero argues, is to make political prisoners “uncomfortable” for the government—too uncomfortable for it to continue to deny our compañeros their freedom.

Anarchists in Ireland have had amazing success in this endeavor. Since 2000, activists from all over Ireland have come together in Rossport for a protest camp to oppose a Shell gas project that residents say would harm their environment and way of life. Five activists were arrested for their involvement in this stunningly successful camp. Anarchists from the Workers Solidarity Movement mobilized in their defense, planning protests and marches, covering buildings with “Free the Rossport 5” graffiti, and blockading Shell Oil buildings and work sites. Activists in other countries protested at Irish embassies and consulates. Importantly, their protests always demanded the Rossport 5's freedom and termination of the Shell gas project, and protests to free the Rossport 5 more often than not targeted Shell holdings even though the Irish government imprisoned the five activists. Activists used the Rossport 5 in their protests against Shell to raise awareness and righteous anger against the gas project. It became unbearably embarrassing to continue to hold the Rossport 5 as prisoners, so after 94 days in jail they were released at Shell's request. Irish anarchists discovered at future protests against immigrant deportations that the police were under orders to not arrest any activists participating in the blockades, presumably to avoid further embarrassment over Ireland's lack of democracy and political liberties. Despite street skirmishes between anarchists and police at deportation sites, there were no arrests during the blockades.

In addition to taking the state off the offensive and putting it on the defensive, making political prisoners unbearably uncomfortable gives the movement a viable option for working outside of the government's legal system. It offers hope for jailed activists like Leonard Peltier who have exhausted all legal options. These prisoners are effectively abandoned by the movement under the false assumption that there is nothing more that can be done to win their freedom. But Pedro Rivero argues that, “To say to a political prisoner, 'Well, I was there with you during your trial and we did everything we could, but we lost and now it's over,' is to abandon those who selflessly fought for us.” The fact is that the government's laws were never meant to provide a “fair trial” for political prisoners. They were written to imprison them and repress movements for genuine justice, something that Peltier and indigenous peoples all over the world understand all too well.

A national plan of action to free all political prisoners

Because the US lacks a culture of formalized, organized, consistent support for political prisoners and a struggle to free them, we have to start from where we are, and that means starting small. Rivero argues that the first step is to create a list of all the country's political prisoners and make them part of our organizations' work. After all, prisoners don't cease to be an active part of the struggle once they are jailed. On the contrary—as Irish anarchists have demonstrated—they become symbols of the injustices we fight against. In our struggle to free our political prisoners, we must also raise the flag of the causes they fought for before their arrests.

It's necessary to cultivate a movement within movements to free our political prisoners as we continue to demand justice for the causes they fought for. In other words, the anti-war movement needs to organize to end the war, but at the same time it needs to demand the freedom of its many political prisoners. Just like the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) leaves honorary seats in their assemblies for their political prisoners and the Zapatistas invite disappeared persons to participate in their encuentros, our political prisoners are still a part of our struggle.

To say that political prisoners are always a part of the struggle means that we can't stop struggling until they are free. If the government knows that activists will stage an annual protest or only protest outside court hearings, then it knows it can wait us out, and our prisoners will never be free. Mariana de las Selvas Gomez, a political prisoner of the Atenco uprising, emphasizes that it was through the endless efforts of activists on the outside that she was finally freed after two years of imprisonment. “Despite the disappearances, the assassinations, the arrests...the struggle continued. The daily plantón and the protests to free the remaining sixteen Atenco political prisoners will continue as long as they're imprisoned.” And the Mexican government knows this.

Organizing within social justice movements for political prisoners' freedom goes beyond liberating prisoners and making movements whole again. It also presents an opportunity to radicalize and mobilize more legally compliant parts of the movement who still believe that justice is possible within the law. As Dan Berger points out in “Building a Political Prisoner Support Movement” in the June 2006 Left Turn, “Working to free political prisoners goes hand in hand with exposing the façade that the US is a country where injustice is minimal and solved through electoral politics: one point necessitates the other.” For this reason, we must work to free all political prisoners in the US: not just anarchist prisoners, not just people imprisoned against their will, but also people who having knowingly handed themselves over to the police or military in acts of civil disobedience and fully comply with the US legal system, such as SOA Watch or Catholic Worker activists. It presents an opportunity to demonstrate that the law won't liberate us; it will just repress us and our movements, so we must find another way to achieve our political goals and freedom for our political prisoners.

To fight the law and win without being constricted by the law, we must assure that no one, not activists, not the public, and certainly not the government, forgets that political prisoners exist and languish in our country's prisons. We have an unlimited supply of tactics at our disposal: dances, concerts, marches, movie screenings, protests, encampments, rallies, denouncements, declarations, forums, conferences, book discussions, graffiti, art and photography exhibitions, visits to political prisoners, street blockades... the possibilities are endless. Political prisoners of the Atenco uprising, for example, recently made prominent headlines in Mexico's nationally distributed newspaper La Jornada through the largest music festival ever held in San Salvador Atenco. Thousands of young people turned out for a ska concert with nationally-known bands like Antidoping to demand the release of Atenco's political prisoners.

Luckily, US activists don't have to start from scratch in the struggle to free our political prisoners. Pedro Rivera notes, “We've seen that there are already actions for political prisoners in your country, both for your political prisoners and for ours. These actions just need to be more formalized” and part of a long-term struggle to realistically demand the impossible: immediate and unconditional freedom for all of our political prisoners.

Court of Appeals Ordered New Sentencing Hearing, but Upheld Conviction

By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Writer
March 27, 2008

PHILADELPHIA - A federal appeals court on Thursday
said former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal cannot be
executed for murdering a Philadelphia police officer
without a new penalty hearing.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld
Abu-Jamal's conviction, but said he should get a new
sentencing hearing because of flawed jury
instructions. If prosecutors don't want to give him a
new death penalty hearing, Abu-Jamal would be
sentenced automatically to life in prison.

Prosecutors are weighing their options, Assistant
District Attorney Hugh Burns Jr. said Thursday.

Abu-Jamal's lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, said he
was glad the court did not uphold the death sentence,
and said he wants a new trial.

"I've never seen a case as permeated and riddled with
racism as this one," Bryan said Thursday. "I want a
new trial and I want him free. His conviction was a
travesty of justice."

Abu-Jamal, 53, once a radio reporter, has attracted a
legion of artists and activists to his cause in a
quarter-century on death row. A Philadelphia jury
convicted him in 1982 of killing Officer Daniel
Faulkner, 25, after the patrolman pulled over
Abu-Jamal's brother in an overnight traffic stop.

He had appealed, arguing that racism by the judge and
prosecutors corrupted his conviction at the hands of a
mostly white jury. Prosecutors, meanwhile, had
appealed a federal judge's 2001 decision to grant
Abu-Jamal a new sentencing hearing because of the jury

Hundreds of people protested outside the federal
building in Philadelphia where arguments were heard in
May and an overflow crowd — including legal scholars,
students, lawyers, the policeman's widow and
Abu-Jamal's brother — filled the courtroom.
Abu-Jamal's writings and taped speeches on the justice
system have made him a popular figure among activists
who believe he was the victim of racism. Abu-Jamal is
black; Faulkner was white.

The flaw in the jury instructions related to whether
jurors understood how to weigh mitigating
circumstances that might keep Abu-Jamal off death row.
Under the law, jurors did not have to unanimously
agree on a mitigating circumstance.

"The jury instructions and the verdict form created a
reasonable likelihood that the jury believed it was
precluded from finding a mitigating circumstance that
had not been unanimously agreed upon," the appeals
court wrote.

Arguments before the 3rd Circuit focused on several
constitutional issues, including whether prosecutors
improperly eliminated black jurors.

Ten whites and two blacks served on the jury.
Prosecutors struck 10 blacks and five whites from the
pool, while accepting four blacks and 20 whites,
according to Bryan, who argued that prosecutors of the
day fostered "a culture of discrimination."

Burns argued in court that Abu-Jamal was raising
issues on appeal that he had not raised during a
lengthy 1995 review of the case.

The officer's widow, Maureen Faulkner, has kept her
husband's memory alive over the years, and recently
co-wrote a book about the case. The book, "Murdered by
Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain and Injustice,"
written with radio talk-show host Michael Smerconish,
came out in December.

Solidarity is a weapon

On Saturday the 9th of February, Natalja was arrested during a demonstration
in München, Germany against the NATO 'security' conference that is held
there every year in February. She's accused of having violently resisted
police measures. A judge decided that she was to be taken to the prison of
München. Natalja had been previously arrested during the G8 summit in
Germany last summer and got convicted to 10 months imprisonment. She also
has a third trial hanging after that she was arrested on the demo on the
first of May last year. It is likely that she will have to spend some time
in prison. During one month, she has not had any visit. On the 30th of
April, her trial will take place in München.

We publish parts of a letter she recently wrote from prison.

I went to Munich (the 'capital' of the state of Bavaria in southern Germany
– known for the traditional 'Oktoberfest'…) to join the protest against the
Nato war conference (officially called Security Conference) which takes
place in Munich every year in February. It is a meeting of political
leaders, military representatives and members of the arms lobby, who all
follow the invitation of the Quandt foundation. The Quandt family is main
shareholder of the BMW Corporation, a company producing cars but also
military equipment like vehicles and arms. (The roots of their wealth and
influence were in chemical industry – including the exploitation of
prisoners of a concentration camp during World War II.)

In spite of the 'private'/'commercial' background of the conference the men
and women 'of honour' meeting there have the status of official guests of
the federal Republic of Germany. The German army (Bundeswehr) is responsible
for the location…


First of all I have to say that I feel ashamed of my own damned passive
behaviour: I am confronted with an artificial environment constructed to
control people and forcing them to adapt to a way of life that seems to be
frozen. Prison is a complex structure of intimidation, emptiness,
humiliation and pressure.

I learn about the personal situation and the problems of the other inmates
and get a feeling of the tragedies of the so called 'illegal immigrants', a
feeling for what it means to wait for your deportation behind bars, which is
what many women in here do, waiting for their deportation being isolated and

So this is my situation. – And my reaction? I don't react. I don't act. I
just am – and remain myself. But the only thing I do is waiting for the time
to pass and trying not to let things come too close.

For me imprisonment began with a kind of shock that is slowly disappearing.
It is replaced by a state of permanent distress, which is, however, rather
in the background and is covered with a thick layer of tiredness, boredom
and exhaustion.

At the moment I'm in a cell in the 3rd floor and I've got the cell to
myself. I'm glad about that. Being alone for 22 hours a day is a real
problem. – But not having any time for myself, not being able to spend even
5 minutes on my own within months would be an even bigger problem for me.

The day begins at 6 o'clock in the morning (at 7 o'clock in the weekend).
Then the guards switch on the light. (There is no electricity inside the
cells). The door remains shut, but we get hot water or 'coffee' through an
opening in the door, which is closed afterwards. At quarter to eight the
door is unlocked and the prisoners get clean underwear. We have to give back
the worn underwear at first…So we have to wear a bathrobe for this

Between quarter to ten and quarter to eleven we may spend one hour in open
air. The yard is in the centre of the prison so that we can only see walls
and bars and 'a piece of sky' and some green grass and one nice tree.
Unfortunately we have to walk in the shadow all the time because the
sunlight doesn't find a way down into the yard. I think it's a little bit
like a cave.

At around 11 o'clock everybody gets their lunch. I always wait impatiently
until quarter past three in the afternoon because then the door is opened
again – and remains open for one hour: you can go 'next door' and 'visit'
your 'neighbours'. You have time to empty your waste-basket or ask for
further toilet paper…

Prisoners can't organise anything on their own. So if there is something
that needs to be organised or if they have an important request, they have
to fill in a special form. – Of course they have to ask for the form
first…In our case this hour when the cells are open is usually the only
occasion to do that.

Before our doors are locked again after sixty minutes we get herb tea and
food for both supper and breakfast next morning. At 10 o'clock in the
evening the night begins and the guards switch off the light.

We get a shower three times a week, which offers another chance for small
talk because we have to queue up in front of the room where the showers are.
(On Saturday and Sundays the structure of the day is a little different from
the one during the rest of the week.)

The rather abstract and formal description is superficial of course, but
maybe it gives an impression…

It's hard to say something about social life in here in general. The
'community' of the imprisoned women is full of contrasts and contradictions
and each one of the inmates may probably experience the social structure her
way – depending on her individual situation and point of view.

There is a kind of strong solidarity amongst the women as well as mobbing.
There are tactical alliances as well as real friendship.

Everybody is lonely in some way. Nearly all women hide most of their
feelings – and long for being understood. There is a lot of social pressure
to pretend you are strong and to keep emotions for yourself; no one wants to
be reminded of her own deep sadness and her own worries (e.g. about her
children who are now separated from their mother). But all this does NOT
mean staying in distance from one another. The women do give each other a
lot of warmth, sympathy, compassion and encouragement. Well, just like
outside the prison walls material needs and hierarchy based on different
'wealth' is an important factor.

And last but not least everybody longs for any interesting thing, any news
or any person that promises to be a splash of colour in the grey of
day-to-day life behind bars.

To write to Natalja:

Justizvollzuganstalt München
Natalja Liebich
Am Neudeck 10
81541 München
for anarchy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is Briana Waters a terrorist?

In an alarming case, U.S. attorneys exploited post-9/11 counterterrorism laws to pursue and prosecute an environmental activist.

By Tracy Tullis Salon .com

Mar. 27, 2008 | In the early morning hours of May 21, 2001, a group of five men and women dressed in dark clothing and carrying backpacks crept close to the Center of Urban Horticulture on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. One of the intruders cut open a window of a ground-floor office; another climbed through it and placed a digital alarm clock wired to a 9-volt battery and a model-rocket igniter in the drawer of a filing cabinet. Next to the cabinet, he filled plastic tubs with gasoline. He set the timer and climbed back out the window.

Not long after, at about 3 a.m., a university security officer driving on his rounds saw "billowing smoke and flames" rising from the building. The building's cedar latticework had acted as kindling and the fire raced to the roof. From a city park a few miles away, the arsonists listened to the firefighters on an emergency scanner.

It took firefighters two hours to put out the flames. By that time the office where the fire had started had burned down to the studs, and the central hall and several botany labs were damaged. Damages were estimated at $2.5 million. The morning after the fire, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sifted through the ash but found no fingerprints. Any hairs that might have yielded a DNA signature had been incinerated.

Ten days later, the Earth Liberation Front, a loose group of underground activists who had burned a horse-slaughtering plant, logging company headquarters, SUV dealerships and a luxurious Vail ski lodge built on mountain lynx habitat, claimed responsibility for the fire. The group explained that it had targeted the office of Toby Bradshaw, a plant geneticist who they believed was genetically engineering trees for the benefit of the timber industry. They said his research would "unleash mutant genes into the environment" and "cause irreversible harm to forest ecosystems."

Federal and local authorities launched an exhaustive investigation, code-named Operation Backfire. For nearly two years, the FBI had no real leads in the Washington case or 16 other ELF arsons. The Earth Liberation Front is a secretive, amorphous group, with no structure or leaders or formal membership. It is more of a movement than an organization; anyone with a rage against ecological destruction and a match can act in the name of the ELF. The FBI didn't know where to go looking for them.

In spring 2003, FBI agents finally got their first break. They closed in on Jacob Ferguson, a heroin-addicted drifter who played in a metal band called Eat Shit Fuckface, and who had insinuated himself into the radical environmental movement -- no doubt finding a convenient outlet for the pyromaniacal tendencies he'd exhibited since the age of 8.

Ferguson quickly turned informant. He admitted to setting the first fire attributed to the ELF in the United States, in 1996, and to 12 additional arsons, mostly in Oregon. Although many ELF "elves" knew only two or three others, Ferguson knew pretty much everyone. Prosecutors dispatched him across the country -- from Arizona to Massachusetts -- to meet with his former compatriots and record their conversations with a hidden wire. Soon the FBI was knocking on doors across the country.

Most of the suspected arsonists, if convicted, would face at least 30 years in prison. Lured with promises of reduced sentences, friends turned in friends, boyfriends offered up the names of girlfriends. Recriminations flew. Those who named names "have dishonored themselves ... by becoming vicious traitors and tools of the state," wrote two non-cooperators in the Earth First! journal. In 2006, the trail of accusations led the FBI to the door of a quiet 32-year-old violin teacher in Berkeley, Calif., named Briana Waters.

Earlier this month, on March 6, a federal jury in Tacoma, Wash., found Waters guilty of two counts of arson for serving as a lookout at the University of Washington fire. According to two women who testified against her in return for dramatically reduced sentences, Waters hid in a shrub near the Center for Urban Horticulture with a walkie-talkie, ready to alert the others if the campus police strolled by. Waters testified she wasn't even in Seattle that night.

Although Waters was on trial for only the University of Washington arson, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman charged that she was part of a conspiracy -- a member of a "prolific cell" of the Earth Liberation Front, responsible for 17 fires set in four states over five years. Ten conspirators have pleaded guilty and been sentenced; four have fled the country; three are awaiting sentencing. Waters, the only one of the accused to have pleaded innocent and therefore the only one to have stood trial, now faces 20 years in prison.

The group's alleged ringleader, William Rodgers, avoided a trial in his own way. From his jail cell in Flagstaff, Ariz., two weeks after his arrest in December 2005, he wrote, "I chose to fight on the side of the bears, mountain lions, skunks, bats, saguaros, cliff roses and all things wild. But tonight ... I am returning home, to the Earth, the place of my origins." He placed a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself. According to medical records, Rodgers was found with his right arm raised, his hand held tight in a fist -- the Earth First! symbol of resistance.

Prosecutors celebrated the guilty verdict against Waters as a signal victory in the campaign against "eco-terror," a mission that the U.S. Department of Justice has made the centerpiece of its domestic counterterrorism program. "This cell of eco-terrorists thought they had a 'right' to sit in judgment and destroy the hard work of dedicated researchers at the UW and elsewhere," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan declared in announcing Waters' conviction. "Today's verdict shows that no one is above the law."

Civil libertarians draw a different moral from the verdict. For them it is evidence of how the Justice Department has exaggerated the threat of eco-sabotage; they see Waters' story as a disturbing example of the misuse of federal authority and the excessive reach of the American counterterrorism program in the wake of 9/11. As Lauren Regan, director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, Ore., remarks: "There's a question of whether burning property is really the equivalent of flying a plane into a building and killing humans."

Briana Waters wouldn't seem to fit the profile of a dangerous terrorist. The daughter of an engineer and a stay-at-home mother, Waters was raised in suburban Philadelphia and migrated west to attend Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., a magnet for left political activists. She has long, straw-colored hair and blue-gray eyes, and always seems to hold her shoulders forward, like a girl who is shy about being tallest in her sixth-grade class. At Evergreen, she became head of the campus animal rights organization and led nature hikes through the nearby woods, teaching people how to identify native plants.

In her senior year, she participated in a prolonged campaign to prevent logging in the old-growth forest on Watch Mountain, part of the Cascade Mountain range. Her senior project was a documentary film about the protest, an elegy to the cooperation between Earth First! members and the residents of a small town, who together climbed into the canopy and refused to come down for five months, until Congress promised the public lands would not be handed over to the timber company. The protest saved 28,000 acres of wilderness.

Kim Marks, an Evergreen graduate who joined the tree-sit, remembers Waters playing her violin as she perched in the treetops. "It was the most amazing thing to be 120 feet up in the canopy and hear this beautiful fiddle music floating through the forest," Marks says.

Waters certainly brushed up against the radical environmentalist milieu, even if she was not one of the "elves." Her boyfriend at the time, fellow Evergreen student Justin Solonz, has been indicted for building the device that sparked the Center for Urban Horticulture fire, and she was friendly with others in the ELF underground.

But Waters has insisted she had nothing to do with underground activities. She testified at her trial that in May 2001, the month of the arson, she was busy promoting her film, showing it to college audiences on the West Coast. She has no specific recollection of where she was on the 21st; most likely, she said, she was sleeping at home in Olympia. She told the jury that the Watch Mountain protest, especially her experience building bridges between students and locals, and even logging families, impressed her as a model of sound activism, and confirmed her belief that more extreme measures, like arson, were "alienating" and counterproductive.

As it turned out, the University of Washington Horticulture building was a poor target for arson. Among the items destroyed were hundreds of photographs documenting plant regeneration on Mount St. Helens after the volcanic eruption, research on wetlands and prairie restoration, and a collection of rare showy stickseed plants that were being raised to replenish dwindling wild stocks in the Cascade Mountains. Bradshaw, the targeted professor, has said that although he had considered doing genetic engineering, he was not at the time of the fire. Rather he was conducting basic research on hybrid poplars, a fast-growing species that could reduce the pressure for logging in natural forests.

About a year after the fire, in 2002, Waters left her college town and moved to Berkeley, where she made her living teaching children violin and playing in Balkan and Irish folk music groups. She met her partner, John Landgraf, a carpenter, at a summer music retreat, and had a baby girl, Kalliope. She had little contact with the radicals she'd met in Olympia, and was only marginally involved in environmental causes.

But while Waters had moved away from the old radical environmental circles, the hunt for "eco-terrorists" was intensifying. During the 1990s, the FBI's domestic terrorism division focused on militias, white supremacists and cults like the Branch Davidians. But after 9/11, the agency began shifting its priorities.

Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller decided "they were going to restructure the FBI as a terrorism prevention organization rather than just a crime-fighting organization," explains Ben Rosenfeld, a civil rights attorney in San Francisco. The FBI vastly expanded its domestic and international terrorism capabilities, adding whole new categories of crime to its terrorism portfolio. Acts once considered property crimes -- like the arson at the University of Washington -- were now assigned not to the bureau's criminal division but to the terrorism division.

In testimony before a Senate committee in February 2002, James Jarboe, the FBI's domestic terrorism chief, alerted the public to this new mission, warning that the ELF and its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front, had become a "serious terrorist threat." By May 2005, agents in 35 FBI offices would be investigating 104 separate incidents of "animal rights/eco-terrorist activities," including the fires set by the ELF in the Pacific Northwest.

In the wake of 9/11, federal prosecutors had some new legal tools at their disposal. Historically, the crime of terrorism has required civilian deaths. In fact, the State Department defined terrorism as "premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatants." But the USA Patriot Act created a new category of domestic terrorism, which is defined as an offense "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government" or "to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." Under this broad definition, eco-saboteurs become terrorists if their crime seeks to change government policy or action.

Several Republican members of Congress didn't want to stop there. In a letter sent to eight mainstream environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Colorado Rep. Scott McInnis and six other congressmen demanded that respectable environmental organizations "publicly disavow the actions of eco-terrorist organizations." In 2006, Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which imposes severe punishments on anyone who "intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property used by an animal enterprise."

During her trial at the Union Station Courthouse in Tacoma, Waters sat straight in an oversize leather chair, her hair pulled back in a rubber band. She wore gold wire-rimmed glasses and sometimes bit her nails as she listened to the proceedings.

In his opening statement before the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney Friedman described how Rodgers, the unofficial leader of the University of Washington arsons, organized a series of instructional and strategizing meetings, which took place in five different cities. The group shared information on lock picking, reconnaissance, and the construction of devices that could ignite a fire. They also used the meetings to select targets and gather recruits for their "actions." They called their gatherings Book Club meetings because they communicated with coded messages, using passages from a book as the key. (At one meeting it was Ursula Le Guin's portentous novel "The Dispossessed"; at another, "The Only World We've Got," by environmental philosopher Paul Shepard.)

Waters and the other members of the group took "extraordinary measures," Friedman told the jury, to conceal their identities and their movements: adopting aliases, meeting in public places not associated with any of them, building their incendiary devices in a "clean room" to eliminate DNA evidence. The ELF activists were "organized in cells so if some are discovered the others can continue," Friedman explained. "It's a classic structure for a terrorist or a guerrilla organization."

On the witness stand, Waters declared that she never had an alias, never attended the clandestine Book Club meetings, and never saw any fire-starting device being built anywhere near her house. The prosecution argued that Waters had met with the arsonists at 8 p.m. in Seattle on the night of the crime. Defense lawyers presented a bank card receipt that shows Waters made a purchase at 7:12 p.m. in Olympia, 60 miles away, which would have made it difficult for her to have been in Seattle at 8 p.m.

The government's case against Waters rested heavily on the testimony of two informants, a radical journalist named Lacey Phillabaum and a yacht-racing aficionado with a master's degree in astrophysics named Jennifer Kolar. Both testified Waters was the lookout on campus that night.

Yet as Waters' defense attorneys pointed out, their initial statements to the FBI about the University of Washington fire contradicted one another. Kolar, who worked in high-tech jobs in Seattle and used her expertise to teach encryption at the Book Club meetings, apparently did not identify Waters as a co-conspirator the first time she was interviewed by the FBI in December 2005; instead, she named four others, giving their aliases. Neither did she identify Waters the next four or five times she spoke with the authorities.

During the trial, FBI special agent Anthony Torres acknowledged that nearly two months before Kolar named Waters as a participant in the arson, she'd been shown a photo of Waters and had identified her by name. But she did not say then that Waters had been involved. It was only several weeks after Kolar's first FBI interview, during the time she was seeking to trade information for an advantageous plea deal, that she told her lawyer that she suddenly "remembered" Waters had been at the Center for Urban Horticulture that night. A third cooperating defendant, Stanislas Meyerhoff, who had earlier implicated Phillabaum, his own fiancée, in the fire, told investigators that he was "familiar" with Waters but that she was "not involved" in the arson.

During the tense three-week trial, Waters' lawyers accused the prosecution of misconduct, including falsification of FBI reports to conceal evidence favorable to her defense. Documents produced in court reveal that FBI agents taking notes during their first conversation with Kolar dutifully recorded that she specifically named four collaborators. None of the four was Waters. A typed version of that interview, admitted into evidence in the trial, says only that Kolar identified "Avalon" (the code name of Rodgers) and "some others."

The jury was unconvinced that these inconsistencies constituted reasonable doubt. Although the jurors could not reach a unanimous decision on several counts -- including a "destructive device" charge -- they convicted Waters on two counts of arson, each of which carries a minimum sentence of five years (running concurrently) and a maximum of 20. She could spend as much as two decades behind bars for allegedly holding a walkie-talkie.

"Obviously we were thrilled by the verdict," says First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bartlett. "There is a price for people to pay for not showing any remorse, for not accepting responsibility. It will be up to the judge to determine how big a price that is."

Waters' lawyer, Robert Bloom, remains outraged. Prosecutors "used scare-mongering to get the jury to convict an innocent person," he says. "This is really a study in American prosecution. It was an absurdly slanted American prosecution."

If Waters encounters the full force of the government's anti-terror zeal, it will be when she is sentenced on May 30. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek a "terrorism enhancement" -- a sentencing rule that was written into the federal sentencing guidelines in 1995, after the bombings in Oklahoma City and at the World Trade Center, and would allow the judge to add up to 20 years to her prison term if her crime can be construed as a terrorist act.

Prosecutors sought the enhancement for six of the 10 Operation Backfire arsonists, who have been sentenced already, a significant departure from legal convention. (Meyerhoff, despite his cooperation, received a 13-year sentence.) "Never before has the terrorism enhancement been applied where there were no deaths," says Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

If Waters spends more than the minimum of five years in prison, her sentence would be disproportionate to punishments received by other arsonists. "That would be a far harsher standard than fits the crime in a lot of arsons," says Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. James King, for example, a seasonal firefighter, set two fires in California's Cleveland National Park in the summer of 2001 in order to score some extra paydays. More than 50 acres of pristine wilderness were razed. King received a jail term of 30 months and a fine; he was also ordered to retire from the firefighting profession.

Today, as Waters sits in the Federal Detention Center in Seattle, awaiting sentencing, environmentalists and civil libertarians worry that her conviction may beat a path to more convictions, including of nonviolent protesters. In recent years, a number of states have passed laws aimed at eco-sabotage that could implicate law-abiding groups along with the lawbreakers. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-leaning, corporate-backed association of state legislators, has written legislation that defines any act of destruction aimed at protecting animal rights or punishing ecological despoilers as terrorism. At least 14 states have introduced bills since 2001 based on this model, and they have passed in Arizona, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The problem with such laws, says David Willett of the Sierra Club, is they can be used "to crack down on environmental groups engaged in legitimate activities as well."

Nonviolent protesters have already felt the heat. Documents obtained in 2005 by the ACLU reveal that the FBI has been surveying animal rights and environmental groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, sending undercover agents to activist conferences and cultivating inside informants. Some of the documents suggest that the bureau was also attempting to link those groups with the ELF and ALF. The National Lawyers Guild reports that it receives calls regularly from environmental and animal-rights activists all over the country who had been contacted by the FBI after attending political events. "It has a chilling effect on free speech," says Guild director Boghosian, "and that's where the real damage to the Constitution is happening."

On March 3, while jurors in the Waters trial were deliberating, three luxury houses for sale in a suburban Seattle cul-de-sac called "Street of Dreams" -- a plot of land surrounded by wetlands -- were destroyed by fire. A banner at the scene pointed to the culprit: the Earth Liberation Front. The FBI immediately announced that the fire "is being investigated as a domestic terrorism act."

-- By Tracy Tullis