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Cheney Torture * Death Row * Lori * Woody

01 December 2005

"And for anyone to think that murder can be resolved by murdering,
it's ridiculous. I mean, we look at all of the wars that we have
throughout other countries and other nations, and all it does is –
this violence, all it does is engender violence. There seems to be
no end, but a continuous cycle, an incessant process of blood and gore
that doesn't end. And through violence, you can't possibly obtain peace."

Stanley "Tookie" Williams
Death Row Prisoner
Scheduled to die December 13, 2005

1) Vice-president Cheney accused of backing torture by BBC Insider
2) Death Row Prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams

- - NY Parole Reform - article by Jehan Abdur-Raheem
3) Lori Berenson 10 years in jail - How much longer?
4) Remember Woody--and Visualize Justice--on 4-year Anniversary

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,
tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly,
effects all indirectly.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Editor's Notes:

Without justice how can there be peace? Without compassion, how can suffering, truth, or innocence, be recognized? This issue is focused on anniversaries of injustices, and a planned killing that should never be allowed. Those on the path working for justice have a long ways to go. Will Cheney and the Bush administration be responsible for the torture they enabled? Will Stan Tookie Williams be put to death on December 13? Lori Berenson has been in prison for ten long years! She is innocent, and the trial was one misdirected by institutional terrorism. December 2nd marks four years to the day when my friend, Robert "Woody" Woodward was shot by Brattleboro, VT police in a Church while seeking political asylum. Will justice and compassion survive; will parole for those deserving be given? When will Leonard Peltier be released from prison?

Please take the time to read this issue, and take actions on initiatives. Let those fighting for their lives or justice know we are in this together. Peace and justice are related; the time for humankind to evolve is in this moment of your actions, thoughts, and consideration. Give Peace A Chance!

Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world.
How do you cultivate it? It's very simple. In the first place by realizing
clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are
members of one and the same family.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

1) Vice-president Cheney accused of backing torture by BBC Insider

Published November 30, 2005 by the Guardian / UK
Cheney 'May Be Guilty of War Crime'
Vice-president accused of backing torture
Claims on BBC by former insider add to Bush's woes

by Julian Borger


WASHINGTON - Vice-president Dick Cheney's burden on the Bush administration grew heavier yesterday after a former senior US state department official said he could be guilty of a war crime over the abuse of prisoners.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, singled out Mr Cheney in a wide-ranging political assault on the BBC's Today programme.

Mr Wilkerson said that in an internal administration debate over whether to abide by the Geneva conventions in the treatment of detainees, Mr Cheney led the argument "that essentially wanted to do away with all restrictions".

Asked whether the vice-president was guilty of a war crime, Mr Wilkerson replied: "Well, that's an interesting question - it was certainly a domestic crime to advocate terror and I would suspect that it is ... an international crime as well." In the context of other remarks it appeared he was using the word "terror" to apply to the systematic abuse of prisoners.

The Washington Post last month called Mr Cheney the "vice-president for torture" for his demand that the CIA be exempted from a ban on "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of detainees.

Mr Wilkerson, a former army colonel, also said he had seen increasing evidence that the White House had manipulated pre-war intelligence on Iraq to make its case for the invasion. He said: "You begin to wonder was this intelligence spun? Was it politicised? Was it cherry-picked? Did, in fact, the American people get fooled? I am beginning to have my concerns."

Mr Cheney has been under fire for his role in assembling evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Mr Wilkerson told the Associated Press that the vice-president must have sincerely believed Iraq could be a spawning ground for terrorism because "otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard"..

..One technique allegedly used by the CIA in questioning suspects is "waterboarding" (strapping a detainee to a board and submerging it until the prisoner believes he or she is drowning). The White House is accused of defining "torture" so narrowly as to exclude such methods. But James Ross, a legal expert at Human Rights Watch said such a narrow definition was at odds with international norms.

"Waterboarding is clearly a form of torture. It has been used since the Inquisition. It was a well-known torture technique in Latin America," Mr Ross said.

Human Rights Watch this year called for a special counsel to investigate any US officials - no matter their rank or position - who took part in, "ordered, or had command responsibility for war crimes or torture, or other prohibited ill-treatment against detainees in US custody".

The report focused on the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, for his alleged command responsibility for abuses at Abu Ghraib, but Mr Wilkerson argued Mr Cheney was ultimately responsible.

The US is a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, which bans inflicting "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental". Such practices are also a crime under US federal law.

For the complete article, see:

2) Death Row Prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams

- - NY Parole Reform - article by Jehan Abdur-Raheem

A Conversation with Death Row Prisoner
Stanley Tookie Williams from his San Quentin Cell

In a half-hour interview, death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams speaks to "Democracy Now!" from his cell in San Quentin about his case, his life and his redemption. He helped start the Crips street gang - his greatest regret - but behind bars he has become a leading advocate for the end of gang violence. He has written nine books and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is scheduled to die on Dec. 13 unless Governor Schwarzenegger grants him clemency. Actions are planned across the world today in what has been described as International Save Tookie Day. [includes rush transcript] For interview, see:

"And for anyone to think that murder can be resolved by murdering,
it's ridiculous. I mean, we look at all of the wars that we have
throughout other countries and other nations, and all it does is –
this violence, all it does is engender violence. There seems to be
no end, but a continuous cycle, an incessant process of blood and gore
that doesn't end. And through violence, you can't possibly obtain peace."

Stanley "Tookie" Williams
Death Row Prisoner
Scheduled to die December 13, 2005

The U.S. Supreme Court, on October 11, 2005, ruled against Tookie on his final appeal and set his execution date for December 13. Thus they disregarded 9 of the 24 Ninth Circuit Court judges' assertion that the District Attorney at Tookie's trial employed "reprehensible and unconstitutional" racist tactics, using animal-in-a-jungle metaphors to refer to Tookie and to the South Central environment in which he lived. This landmark ruling means that minorities can now legally be rejected from juries based on race. This is now the law of the land. (download fact sheet about Tookie's case). On this and for more information, see:

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- - NY Parole Reform - article by Jehan Abdur-Raheem

Over the last 30 years a new class of American has been born. One who will live out his or her life within the confines of the country's maximum security prisons, and most with no chance of ever being released.

The average citizen who considers that offenders are permanently incarcerated may opine that this is a good thing: as there is no better place for a criminal than in prison, but only the naive harbor such opinions.

A recent survey found that 132,000 of this nation's prisoners are serving life sentences. That is approximately 1 out of every 10 persons housed in American prisons. The number of men and women sentenced to life in prison has doubled over the last ten years.

Although most of this number are incarcerated for murder, it is important to consider that most are first time offenders. Some were merely participants in a crime in which a murder took place, and never actually murdered anyone themselves. Some are women who killed a brutal husband after years of abuse. Many were teenagers at the time of of their crimes, and never understood the gravity of their actions: crimes committed with no malice or fore-thought. Psychological pleas by desperate and callow minds. Many people serving life murdered no one at all, but are merely repeat offenders in states like California, where shoplifting can result in a life sentence if the offender has a proor record of felony offenses. Many committed no crimes at all, as evidenced by the many men and women freed from this country's ‘Death Rows/ after newly instituted DNA testing proved them to be innocent - without a shadow of a doubt - of the crimes of which they were convicted because of false testimony of witnesses; false evidence of over-zealous police or simply mis-identifications by well meaning, but misguided citizens.

According to a survey by "The New York Times", fewer than two-thirds of the 70,000 people sentenced to life from 1988 to 2001 were incarcerated for murder. The United States of America incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other industrialized country in the world.

In New York State it costs roughly $35,000 per year to house a single offender. A person serving life costs approximately one million dollars, and that assumes the person is healthy. After 20 years of living in a cage with a poor diet, the average prisoner is in poor of failing health. Medical costs to incarcerate that person becomes astronomical when procedures such as heart surgery, back surgery, and chemo-therapeutic programs for various cancers are considered. Most elderly prisoners pose no threat or danger to society..

New York's Governor (G.E. Pataki) makes no secret of keeping men and women in prison long after their being eligible for parole because he received funds under the Federally promoted sentencing program. As of the 2005 fiscal year, New York is expected to receive 33% of these funds which have increased to $5 million to date. The tax payer does not see relief from these funds; taxes in some areas have actually increased. The monies are used to simply balance the state's budge, which politicians regularly abuse with ‘pork projects' and special interest. Everyone loses except the politicians, and Pataki's unwritten parole policies have created yet another American sub-class hidden behind the walls of prisons.

It is no secret that Africn-Americans and Latinos continue to make up the majority of prison populations in NY. Poor and uneducated men and women who could not afford legal representation, are now warehoused in state correctional facilities. When they are young, they labor in prison factories making approximately 45 cents to $1.45 per day. The state reaps millions each year from products they produce. The results are slavery and human rights abuses of our own less fortunate citizenry.

Recently NY Senate Bill A.3230 was introduced and promoted by several conscious and concerned senators, including Ms. V. Montgomery. This Bill promotes programs that gives incentives and encourages sincere evaluation of parole qualified prisoners who served their sentences and present no threat to society. Senators Dilan, Clark, Duane, Parker, Sampson, and M. Smith also added their weight to the Bill, but opposition remains strong because of the ‘dollar and cents' such reforms would cost the politicians who honor the status quo.

No nation can afford to continue to abuse its people. The cost of doing so is always too expensive. This Bill should be supported by all right thinking Americans. If our Criminal Justice System is to have any real value, it must work to improve problem segments of our society; not destroy them.

-- Jehan Abdur-Raheem

For more information on prison parole reform, please write to:

Jehan Abdur-Raheem
Elmira Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 500
Elmira, NY 14902-0500

FN archive link to: ==>: A Nation Behind Bars

3) Lori Berenson 10 years in jail - How much longer?

On November 30, 1995, Lori was pulled off of a public bus in Lima, Perú. Like thousands of Peruvians, she was detained by the anti-terrorist police, tried for treason by a hooded military tribunal under draconian anti-terrorism laws and condemned to life in prison. On the 10th anniversary of her arrest, Lori releases a commentary.

Lori Berenson Commentary
10th Anniversary
30 November 2005

My name is Lori Berenson. I am a New York born and raised political prisoner in Perú. I have spent many years in Central and South America, trying to contribute to the efforts of those who seek social justice for all. I continue this work from prison.

On November 30, 1995, I was pulled off of a public bus in Lima, Perú. Like thousands of Peruvians, I was detained by the anti-terrorist police, tried for treason by a hooded military tribunal under draconian anti-terrorism laws and condemned to life in prison.

This all occurred in the context of an internal conflict in Perú that began in the early 1980's with the armed insurgence of the Peruvian Communist Party, also known as the Shining Path, and later with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement - the MRTA. This conflict had parallels with other conflicts that occurred in much of Latin America.

When I was arrested, Peruvian President Fujimori made me a symbol for his anti-terrorist campaign. His ability to use the media for his own publicity purposes led to my case being very high profile.

Because of the tireless efforts of my family, friends and many others in the US and elsewhere in the world, the Fujimori regime was forced to bring my case to a civilian anti-terrorist court in 2000. During the period of the falling of the Fujimori regime and the formation of a transitional government in 2001, I received a new trial and was sentenced to 20 years for collaboration with terrorism. A year and a half later, the anti-terrorism legislation was modified slightly and those incarcerated under it began to receive new trials. In 2004, in light of the international anti-terrorism campaign in our post 9/11 world and under extreme pressure from Perú's political class, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ratified my sentence.

The details of what happened to me are irrelevant in the broader picture of the thousands of Peruvians who have been killed, disappeared, tortured and detained during the internal conflict. Since history has always been re-written by those who have the upper-hand, the issue of subversion became the scapegoat for all of Perú's problems.

In all parts of the world, symbolic culprits are used to obscure the root causes of social discontent, to distract attention and distort realities when any group of people questions the existing order.

The world order, especially in this era of globalized capitalism is designed to benefit a powerful few at the expense of the majority of our world's peoples. This system is unjust, immoral, terrifying, and just plain insane. We must change it.

People all over the world are imprisoned today and suffering tremendous injustices for challenging this order. I express my solidarity with all of those prisoners, and in particular my admiration for those whose courage we can hear in the voice of Mumia Abu Jamal, in the writings about Leonard Peltier, in the struggle for the liberation of Puerto Rico, and many others. The dignity demonstrated throughout long years of struggle and resistance under one of the harshest jail regimes on earth is an example for all prisoners and for human beings in general.

For prisoners, the struggle for basic dignity is a daily plight. Prisons are just a smaller version of the general system that operates in this world, and that is what is wrong. The desire to change it is why many of us are here in the first place. It is a worthy cause to be behind bars for.

For more information, visit:

4) Remember Woody--and Visualize Justice--on 4-year Anniversary
by Mary Rives

On December 2nd, 2001, Woody entered the Unitarian Church in Brattleboro, Vermont, in fear for his life, and desperately seeking sanctuary. He stated to the congregants of the church that he had been visited by federal agents the night before who threatened his life and the safety of his loved ones---a reality later confirmed by Woody's neighbors. (Since the dust has settled significantly, as his close friends we now feel that we can reveal that Woody had knowledge--and possibly proof--of some government wrongdoing/s, thus we strongly suspect this is why the feds made a sneak and peek visit to his apartment that Saturday night after a freshly enacted Patriot Act). Woody returned home from a party where he had been his usual fine and happy self, playing with kids and having a great time, to 2 FBI agents rummaging through his apartment. That is enough to put the sanest person (such as Woody) right over the edge, especially after the threats the agents allegedly made that terrified him to his core.

As this sad story goes, the next morning Woody turned to the Unitarians for support and protection. As a back-up plan when people began to leave the church, he threatened to kill himself with a small knife if he was left alone, as his request was for people to bear witness. Eighteen kind and caring people remained with him and attempted to assuage his fears and help calm him down. Meanwhile, people who had left the room called 911 and alerted the police, giving misleading information about Woody and the situation at hand. At the time of that call, Woody was seated calmly with several people and was trying to call us on a cell phone to have us vouch for him and his claims. Tragically, due to post-9/11 bravado and out of excessive and unnecessary fear, the police burst into the church and riddled Woody's body with 7 bullets within 60 seconds of entering the room. 17 of 18 eyewitnesses all claim to this day that he never threatened anyone but himself. It was on our answering machine that we actually heard Woody yell for help, struggling in pain as he lay bleeding from seven gunshot wounds (one of which lodged in Woody's back after he was down). The shots were fired while he waited to leave us a message. Immediate medical care that could have saved his life was denied and then delayed.

Since that fateful afternoon four years ago, our lives, and many others who were touched by Woody's life, will never be the same. The world is not the same without this benevolent being's laughter, kindness and altruistic generosity.

The officers who so brutally took Woody's life were completely exonerated of any wrong-doing. There have been no apologies made for this horrible tragedy and unnecessary loss of a precious life. There was also no grand jury and no civil trial yet allowed. Thus, along with other friends of Woody in the wake of this tragedy and travesties of justice, we helped form a citizens' group called "Justice for Woody" in order to call for justice and to align with other organizations to stop the excessive use of force by police and other abuses of power by American law enforcement. Our four-year struggle for justice--and path of recovery and healing--has been a long, arduous and lonely one, wrought with consistent obstructions of justice from our legal system, deep community divisiveness in Brattleboro, and little support from activist organizations. Yet, many individuals have generously given their support, compassion and time to this cause, often in the worst of New England weather conditions, many of whom didn't even know Woody. To you all, we give thanks!

Update: In 2004, a civil suit against the town of Brattleboro by Woody's family was thrown out of court by a conservative federal district judge, Judge Murtha, in Brattleboro, Vermont. The case was appealed to the United States 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City where a panel of judges heard arguments regarding the need for a civil trial by jury. This hearing took place a few months ago and the judges threw the case back to Judge Murtha in Brattleboro to more thoroughly investigate the case. Murtha's second decision is still pending as we wait in hopes for the Woodward family to have their day in court.

In these past two years, we have become more internal in our struggle for justice as opposed to our more vocal and visible opposition and protest for the first two years since this avoidable tragedy. When a person experiences a sudden preventable death such as Woody's, healing is what the grieving person may need first—then justice. Perhaps justice can only be requested in the midst of healing. As we continue to heal from the trauma and move on with our lives, perhaps there will be justice for Woody after all (which really means justice for all). The pending civil suit WON would bring positive changes to a deeply misguided and troubled police department, especially in the form of increased training, community partnership building and higher salaries for police officers. More lives will be spared, less people will suffer, the community may finally feel safe to call on its police who, through mandatory training and continued practice, may courageously utilize options other than the use of excessive and lethal force on citizens in need of help.

During this holiday season, while Woody's physical absence in our lives is still palpable and we miss him terribly, we are grateful for the time we did have together. Woody's spirit lives on and we carry him in our hearts forever. He remains a constant presence in our lives, and it is a source of solace that our relationship with him is not ended; only changed. I invite you to visit to learn more about Woody and our ongoing quest for justice. Even though nothing will ever bring Woody back in the same form, hopes sail high for the Woodward family to have their day in civil court. May our collective vision, prayers and hopes for justice eventually prevail.

Blessings all around!

In solidarity,

Mary Rives

For Keith's Weblog on Woody, see:

For Flyby News archives, see:
Friend Shot Dead by Police in a Church in Brattleboro, Vermont.

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