On Tuesday, February 18, the federal court decided on the US nuclear weapons breach case that involved a Catholic nun Megan Rice, and fellow peace activists Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Wali. Sister Megan Rice, 84, has been sentenced for 35 months in jail. The fellow peace activists, Michael Walli, 63, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, will be serving 65 months in prison. Rice and both activists broke into Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the federal property where uranium for nuclear weapons is stored, the nuclear arsenal of the United States.
In May 2013, the Tennessee federal jury convicted Sister Rice along with Wali and Boertje-Obed for sabotaging and breaking into federal property of US nuclear weapons. On July 28, 2012, Rice and both peace activists cut through the three fences and damaged property worth more than $1,000. The elderly nun and both activists held a nuclear protest and they splashed blood on the walls, graffiti messages, and banners a mile inside the nuclear weapon facility before the bomb storage. The security at the complex dealt with the activists after they were finished hoisting their messages across the federal property. The guards tried to mediate a deal between them, but peacemakers already finished spreading their message “fruit of justice is peace” across the walls. The activists tried to give guards candles, Bibles and white roses. The protesters set off alarms and tried to spend two hours at the facility. The peacemakers considered such nuclear storage facilities as morally wrong and corrupt. According to the activists’ attorney, Joe Quigley, the trio are “peacemakers,” they were aware of the potential dangers and consequences, such as prison. Breaching into a US nuclear weapons facility is a violation, and Sister Megan Rice will have to serve 35 months in jail. Her fellow peace activists will serve 65 months in prison.
Furthermore, the United States Congress has discussed the incident in its hearings. After multiple hearings, the Congress has sent out national security warnings and advice to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which operates the Y-12 and many other nuclear weapon facilities in the United States. After the break-in in July 2012, Daniel Poneman, Deputy Energy Secretary, said that the nuclear energy department has taken maximum measures in enhancing the security. The site is under highest security reviews and surveillance. The energy inspector who let the incident happen was fired later on.
Moreover, Megan Rice and both activists, Wali and Boertje-Obed, were sentenced for breaching into the federal nuclear weapon property violation. There were possibilities that they will be serving six to nine years in jail. However, their advocates express that the activists have a clean record and should only be imprisoned for few months. Nonetheless, the protesters were not a threat to detonating or damaging any explosive material at the nuclear weapon facility. Thus, Sister Rice is sentenced to 35 months, and Wali and Boertje-Obed each got 65 months’ jail time. The incident has increased crucial security concerns and protection of uranium-enriched nuclear plants. The activists’ action revealed the security weaknesses and flaws at the US nuclear weapon facility. The prosecutors wanted to ensure the highest felony against the elderly nun and the two peace activists was taught.
According to Sister Rice, she believes security faults led the protesters inside the nuclear facility without any difficulty. She said, she was “stunned” by how the group turned off the alarms and all activities were suspended. Over 100 supporters showed up at the court three weeks ago. People around the globe are expressing their support for the three activists through letters and cards. The federal court was closed down due to snow. The district Judge Thapar said that the three will have to pay $53,000 restitution as they breached into federal security zone. Yesterday, the court gave a verdict in the US nuclear weapons breach case, and Sister Megan Rice is sentenced to 35 months’ prison time, and her fellow peace activists will be spending 65 months in jail.
By Iqra Amjad