In a stunning setback to the Bush administration's attempt to shut down Greenpeace, a Federal Judge in Miami has dismissed the government's case against us for exposing illegal mahogany shipments.
The Bush administration has a problem with dissent.
Judge Adalberto Jordan cited insufficient evidence in dismissing
the case. Upon granting a jury trial last month, he expressed
doubts about the Justice Department's ability to prevail against
Greenpeace's claim that the criminal statute involved is unfairly
vague. "It is not a good sign," he wrote, "when the government
resorts to defining a phrase by repeating the phrase itself."
The prosecution was widely criticized as an attempt to silence
Greenpeace. Al Gore called the case "highly disturbing" and Senator
Patrick Leahy warned that a successful prosecution would "have a
chilling effect on free speech and activism of all kinds."
This was the first time that an entire organisation faced
prosecution by the US government for free-speech related
activities. The case arose from an action in February 2002, when
Greenpeace volunteers carried out a peaceful protest against a
cargo ship which was transporting illegal mahogany from the
Unable to find a law against protecting the environment, the US
government had to improvise. The best they could come up with was
an obscure 1872 law against "sailor mongering." The bizarre statute
was originally designed to discourage owners of inns and brothels
from boarding ships as they were about to enter port, in order to
lure the sailors into their establishments. It has only been used
twice in its 132-year history.
Greenpeace USA Executive Director John Passacantando stated "The
conduct for which the Ashcroft Justice Department seeks to
prosecute Greenpeace was, essentially, whistle-blowing -- publicly
exposing and preventing violations of U.S. law prohibiting the
importation of illegally harvested mahogany wood."
Speaking from the Miami Federal Courthouse, Passacantando said
that "America's tradition of free speech won a victory today, but
our liberties are still not safe; the Bush administration and its
allies seem bent on stifling our tradition of civil protest, a
tradition that has made our country stronger throughout our
Over 100,000 people world-wide sent protest messages to George
Bush and US Attorney General John Ashcroft demanding that the case
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