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Court Report Of Ploughshares Trial - Day 2
anti-war / imperialism |
Tuesday July 11, 2006 01:10 by Elaine
First Day (proper), Third Trial
After a false start last Wednesday, in front of Judge Michael White, when it became apparent that no judge would be available until today. We finally kicked off the third trial in the ongoing search for justice for the Shannon 5. Normally called the Pitstop Ploughshares or even the Catholic Worker 5, the white cardboard boxes bearing the relevant documentation pertaining to the case bore the legend in black marker ‘Shannon 5’.
We sat with the defendants in court 24 this morning, awaiting a trial judge to be assigned and a jury to be sworn in. There was some small debate about whether the trial should commence this afternoon or early tomorrow morning. The prosecution had a ‘difficulty’ as one of their witnesses, a Mr. James Nicholls, had been held over since last Wednesday. His flight home to the U.S. was scheduled for tomorrow morning and the prosecution were anxious that he be able to return as soon as possible. The ‘difficulty’ experienced by the defendants counsel was that some members of Senior Counsel were not available for the afternoon session. They mentioned the ‘inconvenience of one day’. To no avail, as it was considered acceptable to allow Junior Counsel for the start of the trial, which was to commence at 2pm in court 23. The same court, incidentally, that held the second ill-fated trial where it emerged that the previous judge, Donagh McDonagh had been a close personal friend of George Bush junior. The judge assigned to the third was one Miriam Reynolds.
The difference this time around was that the potential members of the jury were told the names of the witnesses for both sides.
For the Prosecution: the aforementioned Mr Nicholls and a Mr Michael Schmidt (two former members of the U.S. Military). Various Gardai from Shannon and Ennis and a Mr Niall Maloney, operations manager of Aer Rianta, Shannon.
For the Defence: Dennis Haliday, Jeffrey Oxley, Jimmy Massey, Kathy Kelly and a Belfast academic who is an expert in Law but whose name I did not catch. (perhaps someone can fill in the blanks)
The afternoon session began with members of the Defence Counsel stating that they ‘preferred not to have any witnesses without Senior Counsel’, but were prepared to facilitate the Prosecution.
At 2.15 pm, the members of the Jury, 7 women and 5 men, were brought in. The charges were read out, and the jury informed that the five had damaged property, to wit, an airplane, property of the U.S. Government.
In his opening statement to the jury, Mr Delally Senior Counsel likened the Judge to ‘a referee’, mediating between both sides. To place the time in the minds of the jury he reminded them that it was a time during which there appeared to be a build up of military in the Middle-East, that the build up had started, but the invasion had not. He mentioned the hangar, owned by Aer Rianta at that time, and spoke of the Guard on duty inside. Wearing a uniform and very obviously a Guard. Subsequently, alone during the middle of the night he heard a bang, glass breaking. Five people bypassed him, ‘shouting or at least making noise’. He then told the jury that the Guard having ‘put in the call’, was then able to take ‘weaponry’ away from some of them. He mentioned the five made ‘something of a shrine or memorial’ outside the hangar and ‘daubed’ on the wall. The five were then taken to a Garda station and were ‘interviewed to one degree or another’. He stated it’s called ‘criminal damage put simply’. They had, he continued, ‘no lawful excuse to carry out’ the acts, and, ‘it would be my suggestion that all the acts comprise that offence’.
At this stage, 2.35, the jury were sent out again while the seating arrangements for the defendants were formalised. At 2.40 the trial recommenced with the Prosecution stating ‘they claim to have lawful excuse’.
First into the witness box was a Garda Tom Liddy, colloquially known as the ‘map man’ by supporters of the five. He is a qualified Civil Engineer and works at Shannon Airport. He presented the court with two maps. The first map or Exhibit 1 as it is now known, showed an overview of the airport, it is not to scale. The second map, Exhibit 2, is at a scale of 1:1000 and shows a more detailed view of the maintenance hangar. In reply to the Prosecutions question regarding the ‘area or townland’ the hangar was situated in, Mr Liddy stated, ‘In Shannon Airport’. The maintenance hangar adjoins the perimeter.
Next up was Crime Scene Photographer, Garda Duffy, who informed the court that in 2003 he was stationed in Ennis, County Clare. He was called to photograph the damage to the plane. Under questioning he stated that he saw some damage to the nose cone and engine cover of the plane and some damage to two windows in the building. He took photos of a pick axe with a timber handle, a claw hammer, a lump hammer with the words ‘the war ends here’ inscribed on it. A hammer with ‘pitstop to war’ and another hammer with ‘B52, Swords into Ploughshares’ marked on them, and a red handled wire cutters. He presented albums of 13 photographs to the court, the photos contained the following;
1) Doorway with ‘broken glass on both sides’.
2) ‘War Stops Here’ and ‘Phil Berrigan RIP’ on ‘right side of door’.
3) ‘Death Port’ on ‘right hand side of the door’
4) ‘Pitstop of Death’ near ‘where second picture was taken’
5) The nose cone of the aircraft, to which the Prosecution remarked the ‘lines and scratches speak for themselves’.
6) Nose cone of the plane. ‘Further back on it’ according to Garda Duffy.
7) Small dent near lettering on the plane.
9) Further damage elsewhere on plane.
10) Part of engine.
11) Part of body of plane.
12) Round large dent in plane beside a ruler measuring in centimetres. Taken on 5th February when nose cone was removed.
13) Further damage close up.
Counsel for Ciaron O’Reilly and Damien Moran, mentioned that none of the photographs showed the whole plane, or the markings on the plane, U.S. Navy.
Garda Duffy replied, that is correct.
He was then asked if he took any photos of the hangar, to which he replied, ‘just of the plane’.
When asked about the Shrine, he told the court that the shrine had been removed when he got there but that he had seen the items later at Shannon Garda Station.
When asked if there had been any discussion with Garda Colleagues as to which photos he should take, he replied ‘no’.
He was asked by Senior Counsel Nix if he had seen an inflatable plastic hammer inscribed with the words, ‘hammered by the Irish’. He replied that he had seen it later at Shannon Garda Station. Nix then mentioned the presence of a peace camp on the outskirts of Shannon protesting the forthcoming war on Iraq. He asked Garda Duffy if to his knowledge any ‘Guard in the country had ever got on to a plane down at Shannon?’ To which he replied ‘No, not to my knowledge.’
He was then asked, by O’Higgins, if he was a ‘Crime Photographer’, to which he replied ‘yes’. Was part of his duties ‘to visit alleged crime scenes’, to which he answered ‘yes’, and was the Shrine ‘disassembled’ by the time he had got there, ‘yes’ again was the answer. O’Higgins mentioned the copies of the Koran and the Bible, Rosary and prayer beads, and photographs of events surrounding the previous Gulf war which had been part of the Shrine. He asked was it ‘unusual for it to be taken away?’ Garda Duffy said he didn’t ‘know what the reason for that was.’
He was asked if the ‘Shrine would have been an important photograph to take?’ To which he replied, ‘yes’. His duty was to photograph the plane and slogans as it might provide a clue as to who had done these things and why? Again he answered ‘yes’. Was he ‘aware of damage to the inside of the plane?’ He replied that his job ‘was to photograph damage to the plane, not to go inside the plane.’
The last witness of the day was James Nicholls, a commander in the U.S. Navy who was sent to Shannon in 2003 to repair the same aircraft that Mary Kelly had encountered on her visit there the week before. His role was to ‘bring replacement personnel and parts to repair aircraft’. Particularly the ‘Radome’, the Radar Dome, situated under the nose cone. The Prosecution took him through the photographs asking about the damage. He was asked if the had cause to go inside the plane to which he replied ‘no’. He answered ‘No’ to a question about whether he was in a position to estimate costs, in reply to the question, ‘considerable cost?’ he replied ‘absolutely’.
Defendants Counsel asked if the damage was sufficient to disable the plane, to which he answered ‘yes’.
Then came the questions regarding the destination of the plane, Sigonella in Sicily. As part of it’s onward journey to the Middle East, from Fort Worth in Texas, via Shannon. Nicholls was asked if Sigonella was a U.S. Navy ‘logistical back up centre?’ His answer ‘yes Sir’. Did it ‘provide support in a substantial way for the U.S. 6th Fleet?’ Nicholls answered I ‘don’t know that for sure’. When asked if he didn’t know that Sigonella was a U.S. Military Centre operating in the Mediterranean, he replied ‘no, Sir’. You’re not saying that? He was asked, his answer, ‘I am not’. Then came some mention of questions that had been asked of him in October 2005 at the previous trial. At this point the Jury were sent out while a legal argument ensued as to whether the events of October 2005 and previous to that, March 2005, could be brought up in front of the jury. The Judge rose at 3.30 to allow both sides to come to an arrangement and returned after ten minutes to listen to both sides. She said that it was ‘artificial for the Jury not to know’ and that it was only ‘appropriate for the Jury to know rather than skirting around the issue’. That there was ‘no prejudice in Jury knowing’, but that she, expected ‘parties to act responsibly’.
The Jury returned.
Nicholls was called back to the stand.
The questioning continued regarding content of questions and answers ‘arising from an occasion on 25th October 2005’. ‘Do you remember giving evidence on that occasion?’ He replied ‘Yes’. When asked about Sigonella, he asserted that ‘he didn’t remember’. He was then asked if it was a ‘matter of probability’ that Sigonella is a support base for U.S. military? He replied that he had ‘difficulty recalling’ if he said that Sigonella was a support base. He was then asked if he had ‘discussed his evidence with anyone since the last occasion?’ ‘No’
‘Prior to the last occasion?’ ‘No’
He was then asked about the build up of U.S. Military before the invasion of Iraq, around the time of his visit to Shannon.
He stated that he didn’t know what the purpose of the build up was for.
In questioning it emerged that the type of plane was a C40 which is a military term for a 737. It was capable of carrying people and equipment as the seating could be removed. He was asked if he ‘would accept that the damage caused to the plane was significant to put the plane out of action for three months?’ Nicholls replied, ‘I don’t know.’ To which Defendants counsel replied that on a previous occasion he had replied, ‘I don’t know, probably.’
‘Do you accept that the plane was part of a build up against Iraq?’
‘I wasn’t privy to any information to what that aircraft was in the theatre for. None at all.’
4pm and Nix begins his questions.
‘You would be aware that Shannon Airport was used as a transit point on the way to the gulf?’
Nicholls replies, ‘Sigonella’.
Nix, ‘On the way to the Gulf?’
Then begins a few minutes of Nix asking Nicholls to acknowledge that the route to the Gulf was Shannon to Sigonella and onwards to the Gulf. Nicholls seems reluctant to concur and give a straight yes or no. Nix replies loudly that this was ‘typical of the U.S. Military machine…’ and the rest was lost as he sat down.
O’Higgins suggested to Nicholls that ‘you only know what you know?’ to which the reply was ‘yes’. ‘You don’t know as a fact that the route was Fort Worth Texas, Shannon, Sigonella and the Gulf? That it was a safe assumption that the route was Fort Worth Texas, Shannon, Sigonella and the Gulf? That it was reasonable to assume?’
Nicholls replied, ‘I would agree with that.’
O’Higgins then mentioned ‘matters of interest locally’, a ‘number of very overt steps to get ready for war’. That there were, ‘widespread news reports of troops’ being sent to Iraq. Nicholls knew nothing. O’Higgins commented that it was ‘not of the same interest to the people of Texas’, incidentally that was where Nicholls was based.
As it was late and after a few more words between both Counsels and the Judge, it was decided that Mr Nicholls was free to return to the United States and that the trial would resume at 10.30 tomorrow in court 23.
(It's been a long day, any typos you see can be reported to the editors, please.)