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Elderly nun among those convicted in nuclear site break-in

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An elderly nun along with two other peace activists have been convicted by a U.S. federal jury for breaking into a defense facility where enriched uranium used in nuclear bombs was being stored. Sister Megan Rice, 82 at the time of the incident, along with Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed admitted cutting fences and making their way across the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in July of 2012. The incident has thoroughly embarrassed U.S. officials and has prompted security changes.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rice stood and smiled when the verdict was read after two-and-a-half hours of jury deliberation. Supporters of the protestors began to cry before singing a hymn as the judge left the courtroom.

Their convictions carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years. The three were also found guilty of causing more than $1,000 of damage to U.S. government property, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. All three have been convicted of damaging a national defense premises under the sabotage act. Detained overnight, the defendants will appear at a detention hearing this week.

All three admitted to cutting several fences, walking through the complex for hours, spray-painting slogans and hammering on the walls of the facility. When Security Officer Kirk Garland confronted them, they offered him food and began singing.

Defense attorneys said the activists, who belong to a group called Transform Now Plowshares, had taken part in a symbolic break-in that did not harm the facility. Attorneys argue that they had no intent to harm the facility. The damages rendered were placed at more than $8,500 by the prosecution and was overstated, they said.

"Our country is not threatened by three people who get senior discounts walking onto their (base)," Walli's attorney, William Quigley, told jurors.

Prosecutors contended that the break-in at Y-12, the primary U.S. site for processing and storage of enriched uranium, disrupted operations, endangered U.S. national security and caused physical damage to the facility, describing the site as the "Fort Knox" of U.S. nuclear installations.

In addition to Sister Meghan Rice, Walli was 63 and Boertje-Obed 57 at the time.

Boertje-Obed said the defendants had "exposed that the emperor does not have real security. Nuclear weapons do not provide security ... our actions were providing real security and exposing false security."

He also testified that it was "a miracle" that the activists could walk from a church parking lot over a ridge and reach the building deep inside the facility grounds.

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