Settlement talks begin for missile-defense protesters

By Erica Werner The Associated Press
Tuesday January 08, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Settlement talks were under way Monday on the eve of trial for 15 Greenpeace activists and two free-lance journalists charged in connection with trying to stop a missile-defense test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, both sides said. 

The 17 are accused of conspiracy, trespassing and violating a safety zone for allegedly riding inflatable rafts into a Pacific Ocean “exclusion zone” on July 14 as the Air Force prepared to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile for use as a target. 

The protest caused about a two-minute delay in launching the unarmed Minuteman II. The ICBM’s mock warhead was then destroyed 144 miles above the Earth by an interceptor rocket launched from a Pacific isle. 

The activists, some from overseas, were scheduled to go on trial Tuesday but Greenpeace officials and the U.S. attorney’s office said Monday that the case could settle first. 

“There are ongoing settlement discussions between the government and the individuals who are facing trial tomorrow,” said U.S. attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek. “As of right now there has been no resolution to the case although there may be before the start of trial tomorrow.” 

Mrozek declined to disclose details of the negotiations, as did Greenpeace spokeswoman Carol Gregory. 

“At this time, at this second, we’re still prepared to go to trial tomorrow morning,” Gregory said. 

If convicted the activists and journalists could face up to six months in prison, Mrozek said. 

Gregory identified the Greenpeace activists indicted in the case as: Jon Aguilar of Carpinteria, Calif.; Nic Clyde of Sydney, Australia; Patrick Eriksson of Oja, Sweden; Katie Flynn-Jambeck of Minneapolis; Henk Haazen of New Zealand; Brent Hanssen of Columbia, Mo.; Tom Knappe of Germany; Stuart Lennox of Australia; Guy Levecher of Greenfield Park, Quebec; Kelly Osborne of Littleton, Colo.; Bill Nandris of London; Samir Nazareth of Nagpur, India; Mathias Pendzialek of Hamburg, Germany; Dan Rudie of Minnesota; and John Wills of Great Britain. 

The free-lance journalists are Jorge C. Torres of Los Angeles and Steve Morgan of Cottingham, England, Gregory said.