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NATO 3 Trial Set for January 2014

December 10, 2013


On May 16, 2012, Chicago cops raided an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago in an all-too-common attempt to scare people away from the imminent protests against the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit. With guns drawn, the cops arrested 11 people in or around the apartment and quickly disappeared them into the bowels of the extensive network of detention facilities in Cook County, Illinois, USA.

After a few days, a few things started becoming clear: two of the arrested “activists” were actually undercover Chicago cops who had targeted the real activists for arrest, six of them were illegally held and released at the last possible minute before court action could be taken to force their release, and three had been slapped with trumped-up, politically motivated terrorism charges for allegedly creating Molotov cocktails. These three—Brent Betterly, Brian Jacob Church, Jared Chase—became known as the NATO 3.

These activists were ultimately charged with 11 felony counts: material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an incendiary device (four counts), conspiracy to commit arson, solicitation to commit arson, attempt arson, and unlawful use of a weapon (two counts). The terrorism charges are part of the Illinois state version of the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after 9/11. The prosecutors initially argued that this alleged conspiracy began with the start of the Occupy movement, but later amended their story to say they were mostly considering events, actions and discussions that allegedly took place once the defendants arrived in Chicago.

The NATO 3 are scheduled to go to trial on January 6, 2014. They face up to 40 years in prison each and, as they are being held on $1.5 million bond each, they have been incarcerated since their arrests. Their defense attorneys, many of whom are involved in the People’s Law Office or National Lawyers Guild—Chicago, have been challenging their charges and bond situation since they were first arrested, but the judge has consistently sided with the prosecution on important pre-trial motions.

The pre-trial proceedings show what the government has clearly been banking on since they first started cooking up this case: the draconian anti-terrorism laws on the books in Illinois give the State the ability to pursue outlandish, politically motivated charges to punish people for resisting the ravages of capitalism at home and abroad.

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