Federal judge jails anarchist indefinitely for refusal to testify

A federal grand jury is believed to be in the midst of investigating the March 2008 bombing of an armed forces recruiting station in Times Square. The explosion in that case was small, and no one was injured, although the storefront recruiting station was damaged. According to police, the explosive device was an ammunition box stuffed with low-grade explosives, and a surveillance camera caught the image of a man getting off his bicycle, walking around near the station, and then getting back on his bike and riding away.

A 24-year-old man who describes himself as an anarchist and a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement is not a suspect, nor is he in any way a target of the federal investigation. His only apparent connection to the case is that prosecutors believe he happened to be at a bar in 2008 or 2009, when someone allegedly said they knew who was responsible for the bombing.

The young activist was first called to testify in 2009 but refused to do so, earning him a substantial following among activists. According to his website, he contends that "the grand jury is being used to conduct a witch hunt against anarchists and political radicals." He believes the First Amendment should protect him from being forced to testify.

Recently, he was again subpoenaed to testify. He refused to comply with the subpoena, so the federal judge held a closed-door hearing and ordered him to testify. When his attorney indicated that he would not, the judge ruled him to be in civil contempt of court and ordered him indefinitely jailed until he agrees to testify or 18 months have passed.

The judge said the man "should not be permitted to use his First Amendment rights as a shield, simply because he gained knowledge of who committed a crime through his exercise of his right to free association."

If his knowledge of the case is so tangential, is it reasonable to jail him because he refuses to assist in a federal investigation?

His attorney insists that his refusal is simply a matter of principle. "It's a decision not based on hiding anything or protecting anyone," she told reporters Tuesday.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Anarchist jailed for not testifying over 2008 New York blast," Nate Raymond, May 22, 2013

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