Friday, October 3, 2008

Threat to IFCO

Update on Legal Threat to IFCO and Rev. Lucius Walker

Thank you for the tremendous support in the courtroom on Tuesday, September 23rd.. The presence of almost 50 people made an impression on the Special Commissioner and the court. Rev. Walker was represented by IFCO attorney Linda Backiel and Palyn Hung of the NYCLU, who appeared before Acting Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische.

This is an update on the effort by the Special Commission of Investigation for the New York School District (SCI) to punish Rev. Lucius Walker while SCI alleges that they are investigating misconduct by school personnel in relation to travel to Cuba, they have only issued subpoenas to Rev. Walker and IFCO. Following the subpoena, Rev. Walker was interrogated by SCI attorneys. However, SCI refuses to give a copy of the transcript of the interrogation to either the judge in this case or to IFCO attorneys.

They have a motion pending to hold Rev. Walker in contempt. They are also attempting to "seal" the transcript or at the least to redact names from the transcript. The September 23rd court appearance was for the lawyers on both sides to argue the issue of redaction. No conclusion was reached. The SCI is firm in its refusal to provide a copy of the transcript to IFCO and the judge. The mandate of SCI is to investigate misconduct by school personnel. How going on a private trip during spring break qualifies as "misconduct" escapes our understanding. Why is SCI trying to railroad this case forward?

What exactly are they so determined to keep secret? We see these actions as an attack on the whole movement. We saw evidence of this in the courtroom on September 23rd. We were heartened by the number and diversity of supporters in the courtroom on. Your presence sends a strong signal to the other side that we are watching. At the hearing, the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) continued to squander extraordinary time and expense to harass IFCO and Rev. Walker. This is a clear indication that the U.S. government is desperately trying stop travel to Cuba, and is taking aim at our constitutional right to travel.

For the past 20 years, IFCO has asserted that the U.S. blockade of Cuba is immoral and has consistently defended the right to travel to Cuba for all U.S. citizens. The purpose of this entire court proceeding according to SCI is "to punish Lucius Walker for contempt of court; such punishment may consist of a fine or imprisonment or both." We applaud the curiosity and enthusiasm of students who want to travel to Cuba. Rather than going to Cancun for spring break and engaging in risky behaviors, more young people should visit Cuba.

They would have an amazing opportunity to discover the Cuban people and their culture, without all of the bellicose mis-information emanating from the Bush administration. Your continued support is keeping the pressure on SCI. Together, we have to let SCI know that there is broad public opposition to this attempt at legal lynching. At the end of the September 23rd proceeding the judge left the next court date open ended. She even suggested that the SCI might consider dropping the contempt charges against Lucius Walker before any more decisions are made. If the SCI continues to harass IFCO and Rev. Walker we can be certain your support will be needed once again.
IFCO/PASTORS FOR PEACE418 W 145th Street, New York, NY 10031tel: 212.926.5757 - fax: 212.926.5842
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