Trial Opens for Shannon Two, Tarak Kauff and Kenneth Mayers, in Dublin
The trial of the Shannon Two got off to a faster than expected start on Monday, moving through jury empanelment and the prosecution’s opening four witnesses.
The two, Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, were arrested March 17, 2019, at Shannon Airport for going onto the airfield to inspect U.S. military planes at the facility. They carried a banner that said, “U.S. Military Veterans Say: Respect Irish Neutrality; U.S. War Machine Out of Shannon.” Millions of U.S. troops have been moved through Shannon Airport since 2001 on their way to illegal wars in the Middle East, in violation of Irish neutrality and international law. Kauff and Mayers were attempting to either inspect the planes or to get Irish authorities to do so, but they were instead arrested.
The charges against Mayers and Kauff—criminal damage, trespass, and interfering with airport operations and safety—were read and they pleaded not guilty to all three.
The men, who are U.S. military veterans and members of Veterans For Peace, had already spent two weeks in prison after being denied bail immediately after their arrest. When they were finally granted bail, their passports were confiscated and they spent eight months in Ireland before their passports were returned and they could go home in early December.
During that time, the case was first moved up to the Circuit Court, assuring that they would get a jury trial, and then moved the venue from County Clare, where the airport is located, to Dublin.
On the opening day of the trial, jury selection was interrupted for nearly half an hour when one juror asserted his right to take the oath in the Irish language and the court officer could not find the appropriate text. After much searching online and elsewhere, an old book was produced that had the required text.
After the jury was empanelled and the judge gave some instruction regarding their role, the prosecution opened their case. Barrister Tony McGillicuddy laid out the charges, and told jury members that they were the sole arbiter of fact in the case. Before McGillicuddy began calling witnesses, the two defense barristers, Carol Doherty for Kauff and Michael Hourigan for Mayers, both stipulated that the defense was not contesting that Kauff and Mayers had “been involved in the making of an opening in the perimeter fence,” and that they had indeed entered the “curtilage” (surrounding land) of the airport. The defense was hoping to move quickly through the uncontested areas of fact to what they view as the main point of the trial—putting the U.S. war machine, and Ireland’s complicity in it, on trial.
Kauff and Mayers have a different view of what the trial should be about. “The purpose is to, in our own way, put the government and the U.S. military on trial for killing people and animals, destroying the environment, and betraying the Irish people’s concept of their own neutrality,” said Kauff. “U.S. warmaking is literally destroying this planet, and I don’t want to be silent about it.”
Several peace activists attended the trial. More supporters are expected when the case continues tomorrow at 11 am at the Circuit Criminal Court, Parkgate Street, Dublin 8.