U.S. Peace Activist Appeals to European Court, Claims Unfair Trial in German anti-Nuclear Weapons Protests
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 9, 2023
Contact: Marion Küpker, 49-172-771-3266, <marion@email@example.com>
John LaForge, 715-472-4185; 715-491-3813, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
LUCK, Wisconsin - A U.S. peace activist may be the first to appeal to a European human rights court claiming that his criminal trespass convictions, stemming from nuclear weapons protests in Germany, were based on unfair judicial errors.
John LaForge, 67, a Duluth native and co-director of the group Nukewatch in Wisconsin, was convicted of two charges of trespass and damage to property after separate protest actions at Germany’s Büchel Air Force Base, 80 miles southeast of Cologne, which stations approximately 20 U.S. hydrogen bombs known as B61s* as part of a practice called “nuclear sharing.”
Now, in an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg, France to be filed today, LaForge argues that the ECHR’s binding European-wide rules were violated by the German courts which, he claims, effectively denied him the right to present a defense. The ECHR reviews complaints from across the European Union if defendants, who have exhausted their legal alternatives in European member states, can demonstrate that their convictions were made in error. The ECHR will initially consider LaForge’s “application,” and then decide whether it merits formal review.
LaForge’s convictions were affirmed by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany’s highest, which has over the last 20 years refused to hear 19 similar appeals by anti-nuclear weapons activists. In January this year, LaForge became the first U.S. citizen incarcerated in Germany in the long-running, international campaign against the stationing and threatened use of the U.S. nuclear weapons at Büchel. LaForge was sent to Glasmoor prison near Hamburg for 50 days, and was released February 28. A second U.S. citizen, Dennis DuVall, a member of Veterans for Peace who now lives in Germany, finished a 60-day sentence on April 19, 2023.
In the appeal filed today by attorney Anna Busl of Bonn, LaForge argues that the German courts all erred by refusing to consider the expert witness testimony he asked to court to hear, which he says would have corroborated his defense of “crime prevention.” In particular, the courts refused to hear from University of Illinois international law professor Francis A. Boyle. “The courts mistakenly neglected to consider the international laws, binding on the United States and Germany, that criminalize their planning or preparation of nuclear attacks, and even forbid the transfer of nuclear weapons from the United States to Germany,” LaForge said.
The appeal to the ECHR is not altogether new. The first, lodged in April 2022 by Stefanie Augustin and Marion Küpker of Germany’s campaign “Büchel is Everywhere: Nuclear Weapons-Free Now!”, has not yet been answered.
In July 2022, Oscar Arias, the ex-President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, recommended that the U.S. withdraw all its nuclear weapons from Europe and Turkey as a demonstration that they said could move Russian President Putin’s to support negotiations leading to an end of the war in Ukraine.
* De Morgen (Antwerp), July 16, 2019, https://www.demorgen.be/nieuws/eindelijk-zwart-op-wit-er-liggen-amerikaanse-kernwapens-in-belgie~b051dc18/ (De Morgen obtained a leaked official NATO report detailing the locations and numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons currently stationed in five NATO states.); see also The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2019, p. A9, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/21/world/middleeast/us-troops-deployments.html //END//
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