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Federal Prison Sentence for Springfield Activist Demonstrating at SOA Rally

SPRINGFIELD, IL --February 4, 2008 --  "I crossed the line at WHINSEC and prayed on the grounds to bring attention to the teaching of torture and assassination,” said Diane Lopez-Hughes, who is a member of the Anti-Racism Team of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.   “When enough people learn the truth about this school and act to end these practices, the healing can begin."

A member of PAX Christi, Diane was one of 11 people arrested and later sentenced on January 28 to federal prison on charges of “trespassing on a military base”.

Six Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois joined Hughes and thousands of other people from across the Americas outside the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia in opposition to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation / School of the Americas (SOA), a combat-training school for Latin American soldiers November 16- 18, 2007.

Hughes willingly put her freedom and body at risk to stand in witness against the SOA/WHINSEC during the November 2007 Vigil.  Hughes, 58, was sentenced by US Magistrate Judge G. Malon Faircloth to 45 days confinement and a $500 fine for the charge of "trespassing on a military base".

“I’m impressed by her efforts of peacemaking to bring to light the injustices that happen because of the SOA,” Dominican Sisters of Springfield Council Member and Justice Promoter, Sister Marcelline Koch, OP said.  “Diane works to be a nonviolent presence in peacemaking work, which is why I believe it was important for her to take a stand and be willing to take the action that she did.”

The November 2007 event saw a massive rally, nonviolent direct action training seminars, workshops, benefit concerts, puppet shows, teach-ins and more.

According to the Center for International Policy website, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) is the Defense Department's principal Spanish-language training facility for Latin American military and law-enforcement personnel.  It is the successor to the School of the Americas (SOA), a facility established in 1946 and legally closed in 2001. The WHINSEC is located in the same building, and offers many of the same courses, as the school it replaced.

SOA WATCH, an independent organization seeking to close the School of the Americas, reports that the graduates of this school return to their countries to utilize their training domestically and are consistently cited for atrocities against their own people.  Other human rights organizations have linked hundreds of SOA graduates to widespread terrorism, civilian-targeted torture, disappearance and killing.

“These horrors often happen to people who are poor, the people who don’t have a voice.” Sister Marcelline said.  “It was important for us to be present at the vigil to be in solidarity with other people who have recognized this institution’s impact on the poor and helpless.  Innocent people are tortured and killed by the graduates of the SOA.”


SOA Watch
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Dorothy Marie Hennessey, peace activist jailed at age 88, dies

DUBUQUE, Iowa (CNS) -- Franciscan Sister Dorothy Marie Hennessey, a teacher turned activist who made national news at age 88 when she was sentenced to federal prison for trespassing at a Georgia military base, died Jan. 24 at the age of 94. MORE

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