By Nukewatch Staff
Nukewatch co-director John LaForge has appealed 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.
LaForge 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. The base stations approximately 20 U.S. hydrogen bombs, that German pilots train to use in attacks on Russia, as part of a controversial program called “nuclear sharing.”
Now, in an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France filed June 9, LaForge argues that the ECHR’s rules were violated by 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, a process that can take many months.
LaForge’s convictions were affirmed by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany’s highest, which over the last 20 years has 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 “nuclear sharing” and the 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 for a similar charge.
In the appeal, filed by attorney Anna Busl of Bonn, LaForge argues that the German courts erred by refusing to consider expert witness testimony, which he says would have corroborated his defense of “crime prevention.” In particular, the courts refused to hear from University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis A. Boyle, author of The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, and many other books. “The courts mistakenly neglected to consider international law, binding on the United States and Germany, that criminalizes planning and preparation of nuclear weapons attacks, and which forbid the transfer of nuclear weapons from the United States to Germany,” LaForge said.
The appeal to the ECHR is not altogether new in the campaign to oust the U.S. weapons. In April 2022, Stefanie Augustin and Marion Küpker of Germany’s campaign “Büchel is Everywhere: Nuclear Weapons-Free Now!” filed an appeal which has not yet been answered. In addition, Johanna Adickes of Germany filed an appeal April 26, and two other resisters, Ariane Dettloff of Germany, and Susan Crane of California, intend to appeal later this year.
In a related initiative, while nuclear resisters were facing trial and prison sentences in Germany, Oscar Arias, the former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute, recommended in July 2022 that the U.S. withdraw all its nuclear weapons from Europe as a demonstration of good will and trust building that they said could move Russian President Putin to support negotiations leading to a cease fire and eventually an end to the war in Ukraine.