U.S. Activist First to be Jailed in Germany for Protesting U.S. Nuclear Weapons Based There

By The Nuclear Resister, January 3, 2023

Amidst heightened nuclear tension between NATO and Russia in Europe, for the first time a U.S. peace activist has been ordered by a German court to serve jail time there for protests against U.S. nuclear weapons stationed at Germany’s Büchel Air Force Base, 80 miles southeast of Cologne. (Order attached) The Koblenz Regional Court notice of August 18, 2022 requires John LaForge to report to JVA Billwerder in Hamburg on January 10, 2023. LaForge will be the first American ever jailed for a nuclear weapons protest in Germany.

The 66-year-old Minnesota native and co-director of Nukewatch, the Wisconsin-based advocacy and action group, was convicted of trespass in Cochem District Court for joining in two “go-in” actions at the German airbase in 2018. One of the actions involved entering the base and climbing atop a bunker that likely housed some of the approximately twenty U.S. B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs stationed there.

Germany’s Regional Court in Koblenz affirmed his conviction and lowered the penalty from €1,500 to €600 ($619) or 50 “daily rates”, which translates to 50 days incarceration. LaForge has refused to pay and has appealed the convictions to Germany’s Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the country’s highest, which has not yet ruled in the case.

In the appeal, LaForge argues that both the District Court in Cochem and the Regional Court in Koblenz erred by refusing to consider his defense of “crime prevention,” thereby violating his right to present a defense. Both courts ruled against hearing from expert witnesses who had volunteered to explain the international treaties that prohibit any planning for mass destruction. In addition, the appeal argues, Germany’s stationing of the U.S. nuclear weapons is a violation of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which explicitly forbids any transfer of nuclear weapons between countries that are parties to the treaty, including both the U.S. and Germany. The appeal also argues that the practice of “nuclear deterrence” is an ongoing criminal conspiracy to commit vast, disproportionate, and indiscriminate destruction using the U.S. hydrogen bombs stationed at Büchel.

Over a dozen German anti-nuclear resisters and one Dutch citizen have been jailed recently for nonviolent actions taken at the controversial NATO “nuclear sharing” base.

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