Nato summit - 2 more activists charged

2012-05-20 21:33

Chicago - Prosecutors said on Sunday they have charged two more people as part of their investigation into activists who planned to take part in demonstrations against the two-day Nato summit.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office said Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, of Chicago, is charged with falsely making a terrorist threat. Mark Neiweem, 28, who authorities believe to be from Chicago, is charged with attempted possession of explosives or incendiary devices.

The men were scheduled to make an initial court appearance later on Sunday, when prosecutors were expected to offer more details about their allegations. Also expected in court on Sunday is a third man, Taylor Hall, who was arrested during Saturday night protests and is charged with aggravated battery to a police officer.

Authorities did not immediately release Hall's age or home town.

The latest charges came a day after three other activists appeared in court and were accused of manufacturing Molotov cocktails and having plans to attack President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home, and other targets during the Nato protests.

Kris Hermes, an attorney with the leftist National Lawyers Guild, which has represented many of the activists, said the new charges were an "effort to frighten people and to diminish the size of the demonstrations." Hermes said on Sunday that his group has tried but failed to obtain details from authorities about the charges.

"Like with the others, police have given us minimal information... next to nothing," he said.

The trio charged on Saturday are Brian Church, 20, of Ft Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, New Hampshire; and, Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Florida. They were arrested on Wednesday and face charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, material support for terrorism and possession of explosives.

Intimidating protesters

Senakiewicz was arrested a day later and there was no immediate indication that he had links to Church, Chase or Betterly. It also wasn't clear when Neiweem was arrested and if he had any links to the other charged activists.

Defence lawyer Michael Deutsch on Saturday accused police of setting up their clients in an attempt to frighten peaceful protesters. He said undercover officers brought the fire bombs  to a South Side apartment where the men were arrested.

Critics say filing terrorism-related charges against the protesters is reminiscent of previous police actions ahead of major political events, when authorities moved quickly to prevent suspected plots but sometimes quietly dropped the charges later.

"Even if charges are dropped or reduced later, they will have succeeded in spreading fear and intimidation," Hermes said.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Saturday flatly dismissed the idea the arrests of the initial three suspects were anything more than an effort to stop "an imminent threat".

Prosecutors said Church, Chase and Betterly used fuel purchased from a Chicago petrol station for makeshift bombs, pouring it into beer bottles and cutting up bandannas to serve as fuses. If convicted on all counts, they could get up to 85 years in prison. They are each being held on $1.5m bond.

- AP
Read more on:    nato  |  us  |  protests
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