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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 17, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA

Torture evidence disallowed in trial of priests

Franciscan Father Louis Vitale stands outside Fort Huachuca in Arizona, Aug. 12.


SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Two Catholic priests arrested last November while attempting to deliver a letter denouncing torture at Fort Huachuca in Arizona entered no-contest pleas in the case after an Arizona judge agreed with a government motion to preclude evidence of systematic torture on the part of the U.S. military.

The decision prevents defense attorney William Quigley, the lawyer for Jesuit Father Steve Kelly and Franciscan Father Louis Vitale, from presenting any evidence about the training of soldiers in torture techniques, the extradition of prisoners to countries known for torture, the defense of international law and the legality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Father Vitale, 74, re--tired pastor at St. Boniface Parish in San Francisco, and Father Kelly, 58, who worked with Redwood City’s Catholic Worker community, both face charges of trespassing at Fort Huachuca.

Tucson Magistrate Judge Hector Estrada’s order, issued Sept. 4, also denied a defense motion for a jury trial. In a telephone interview, Quigley said the rulings have all but eliminated the priests’ chances of avoiding jail time.

“The guts of the trial are finished,” said Quigley, a human rights attorney who teaches at Loyola Law School in New Orleans. “If the trial is not about torture and justice, then it’s going to be an irrelevant analysis of where they were on the driveway, and not what’s at the end of that driveway.”


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