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"NATO 3" In Court On Terror Charges

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 12, 2012 8:30PM

Brent Betterly, Brian Church and Jared Chase have been charged in an alleged NATO summit terror plot. (Chicago Police Department booking photos.)

The three men arrested on suspected terrorism charges surrounding the NATO summit last month were indicted today, though the indictment was not read in court. Brent Betterly, Brian Church and Jared Chase face charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an explosive or incendiary device and providing material support for supposedly conspiring to make Molotov cocktails prior to the NATO summit last month. State authorities have yet to produce any physical evidence to back up the accusations, according to ABC7 and the Chicago Sun-Times. The judge presiding over the case today remarked that it was strange that an indictment wasn’t read.

Rather than have federal attorneys prosecuting the case, state prosecutors are handling the matter. Illinois is one of 36 states that adopted anti-terrorism laws after 9/11, though most states have left prosecuting terrorism charges to the feds. According to the AP, the Center on National Security has said that states have attempted to prosecute terrorism only a few dozen times, and most of the time those cases have not held up.

The defendants were reportedly led into the courtroom shackled. According to the AP, court documents for the prosecution claim the three planned to attack police stations. Prosecutors allege that one activist asked others if they had “ever seen a cop on fire” while he poured gasoline into beer bottles. So far, the prosecution has not released the indictment or any other evidence to defense attorneys.

All three men, and a fourth scheduled to appear in court tomorrow, intend to plead not guilty. Attorneys for the men have said the arrests and charges were meant as an intimidation tactic for NATO summit protesters. Attorney Sarah Gelsomino with the People’s Law Office said the claims prosecutors have made about the arrested in Chicago are reminiscent of terror charges of 2008 Republican Nation Convention protesters in Minnesota which were later dropped or reduced.

In addition, supporters of the jailed NATO activists have pointed out that six others originally arrested in connection with the three were released 30 hours later without charges. James Fennerty, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild said in a press release “For the city to use such sensational charges in this way, before a national political demonstration, hiding the evidence and not indicting for a month after the arrests is indefensible. These activists are sitting in jail on prohibitively high bonds while the state tries to piece together its case, keeping everyone in the dark.”

The next hearing for the Betterly, Church and Chase is scheduled for July 2. Two more hearings are scheduled for this week for protesters held on separate charges tomorrow.