Trial opens for ‘Creech 14’

Participants in the Nevada Desert Experience gathered at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada in April 2009. (Photo from Nevada Desert Experience)

The trial of 14 faith-based peace activists charged with criminal trespass for entering the grounds of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada in April 2009 to voice their concerns over the use of unmanned aerial vehicles –- UAVs — in Pakistan and Afghanistan opens today in Las Vegas.

Several individuals in the group, which calls itself the Creech 14, are longtime Catholic peace activists who have been involved in a variety of actions and prayer vigils over the years calling for peace.

Those arrested during the annual Nevada Desert Experience vigil at the base were Kathy Kelly of  Voices for Creative Nonviolence; Jesuit Fathers John Dear and Steve Kelly; Franciscan Fathers Louis Vitale and Jerry Zawada; Holy Child of Jesus Sister Megan Rice; Catholic Workers Mariah Klusmire of Albuquerque, N.M., Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, and Renee Espeland of Des Moines, Iowa. Others in the group are Dennis DuVall, Judy Homanich, Brad Lyttle, Libby Pappalardo and Eve Tetaz.

Kelly told Catholic News Service after the incident that the group entered the base through an open gate and wanted to ask the pilots who operate the unmanned vehicles via a long-range communication network at Creech why attacks on innocent people were being carried out.

Jim Haber of the Nevada Desert Experience told CNS the activists’ defense is built around international law, which they say requires them to actively oppose what they consider the illegal use of the UAVs, or drones, and the First Amendment right to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance.

The group plans to ask the court to include as expert witnesses former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, attorney Bill Quiqley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and retired Army Col. Ann Wright, a former U.S. diplomat who has opposed the war in Iraq, he said.

Prior to the trial a series of events, prayer vigils and rallies in Las Vegas called attention to the use of drones and the role of the air force base in military activities in Pakistan.

Incidentally, the Nevada Desert Experience conducts annual retreats and activities to support personal renewal in the desert tradition through prayer, education, dialogue and nonviolent direct action in an effort to stop nuclear weapons testing and other acts of war.