Germany: Prison for nonviolent action against Büchel Airbase

A group of 8 people stand, holding a banner with an anti-nuclear message written on it in German
  • Update 10th June 2024: Susan Crane and Susan van der Hijden were both imprisoned on 4th June. Gerd Büntzly had expected to also go to prison as an alternative to paying a fine, but hasn't been issued with this yet so remains free - please don't send him solidarity cards yet. You can find pictures from the peace hike here:

On 30th May, peace activists in Germany will begin a peace hike from from Büchel Air Force Base in the Eifel hills, to the Wöllstein prison in Rhineland-Palatinate. The hike will begin with a vigil in front of the main gate of Büchel, and over five days will travel via Cochem, Bingen and Mainz to Wöllstein. Shortly after the peace hike one participant – Gerd Büntzly - will begin his substitute prison sentence following an action against Büchel in 2023.

The runways at the Büchel air base are currently being extended to allow for new aircraft to replace the Tornado jets currently housed there. New, "better" nuclear bombs will also be delivered from the USA, which will increase the danger of nuclear use. In the summer of 2024, activists will take part in civil disobedience actions, similar to those undertaken in Büchel in 2023. Last year, two U.S. citizens were held in a German prison for several months after they refused to pay fines following actions of civil disobedience at the base.

On June 4th 2024 another US citizen, Susan Crane, will go to prison for 229 days. A Dutch woman, Susan van der Hijden, will begin her substitute prison sentence at the same time. A third activist, Gerd Büntzly, has been sentenced to 90 days in prison; he expects to go to prison for 45 days under a new law that came into force in February.

This will be the fifth time Gerd has gone to jail instead of paying money. The current conviction is due to an action on May 8th 2023, when he occupied the Büchel military site together with six other people. On the day of the trial, another person from the group was also in court. While she, like all of us in recent years, explained in detail their motives for the non-violent action they took part in, Gerd said he would no longer defend himself and would simply remain silent in court. He said that the courts had now heard the arguments against the base enough times but had not taken any notice of them. He also argued that the court had rejected their requests to include evidence related to the activities taking place on the base.

The activities on the base have been raised several times in German courts; the Koblenz Higher Regional Court has also already judged on the matter as a high authority, but all requests to include this evidence in court cases related to civil disobedience have been rejected: “It doesn’t matter.” The activists have always found this behaviour to be ignorant and arrogant; the courts seem to treat the issue of nuclear weapons as like any other, and that acts of civil disobedience at Büchel are no different to breaking into a private garden.

The peace hike from Büchel to the prison in Wöllstein-Rohrbach starts on 30th May 2024 with a vigil in front of the main gate in Büchel and leads to the destination in five days via Cochem, the Hunsrück hills, Bingen and Mainz. About a dozen people will be there. The walks will use the opportunity to make contact with peace activists across the region, andto remember the resistance in the Hunsrück hills 40 years ago (when 200,000 people protested against the deployment missiles armed with nuclear warheads). Local activists have promised to hold a vigil in front of the prison at least once a week.

The following court dates have been set this year:

  • May 13th: at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in front of the Cochem district court
  • May 16th: at 3:00 p.m. appeal trial before the Koblenz Regional Court
  • June 25th: at 8:00 a.m. appeal trial before the Koblenz Regional Court
  • June 27th: at 8:00 a.m. appeal trial before the Koblenz Regional Court

From June 4 on, You can write cards or letters of solidarity:

  • Susan Crane, Justizvollzugsanstalt Rohrbach. Peter-Caesar-Allee 1, 55597 Wöllstein
  • Susan van der Hijden, Justizvollzugsanstalt Rohrbach. Peter-Caesar-Allee 1, 55597 Wöllstein
  • From June 15 on: Gerd Büntzly, JVA Senne, Senner Str. 250, 33659 Bielefeld
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