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LEGAL HEAVYWEIGHTS JOIN FORCES TO DEFEND THREE ARRESTED IN PROTEST
By Stephanie Nazzaro
WASHINGTON - The cause of ending human rights abuses in a distant African nation brought two of this country's most famous legal figures together in a Washington courtroom Tuesday.
Former White House special prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr and criminal defense attorney Johnnie L. Cochran are representing three men arrested last month outside the Embassy of Sudan.
On April 13, former D.C. Congressional Delegate Walter Fauntroy, activist and radio talk show host Joe Madison and Hudson Institute fellow Michael Horowitz handcuffed themselves to the embassy building.
The three were protesting what they say are acts of genocide, slavery and starvation by the Sudanese government against its own people.
The men were arrested and charged with unlawful entry, a misdemeanor. On Tuesday, D.C. Superior Court judge Anna Blackburn-Rigsby ordered them to stand trial June 27.
"Never in my wildest imagination did I think that we would find ourselves between Johnnie Cochran and Ken Starr," Madison said outside the courtroom.
He added that both attorneys did not hesitate to join the case.
For their part, Cochran and Starr called it a "privilege" to represent the three protesters.
"We applaud their efforts to bring attention to this outrageous situation," Cochran said.
Starr compared the situation in Sudan to the Holocaust.
"Food is being used as a weapon of war and persecution," he said.
The Sudan Campaign - an organization led by Madison and Fauntroy - says the Sudanese government is attacking and enslaving people living in the southern part of the country and withholding international food aid, all in an effort to drive the people out of oil rich areas.
The United Nations World Food Program estimates 3 million people there are living on the brink of starvation.
"We look forward to the trial, because (we) will not actually be on trial," Madison said. "Sudan will be on trial."
INTERVIEW: ATTORNEYS KENNETH STARR AND JOHNNIE COCHRAN DISCUSS UNITING TO DEFEND CLIENTS FIGHTING CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN SUDAN
May 15, 2001
CHARLES GIBSON, co-host: Well, politically, opposites have joined forces to fight for a cause they both believe in. The lawyers are Johnnie Cochran and Kenneth Starr. They are defending a group of defendants as unlikely co-defendants as they are unlikely cooperating counsel. We'll find out why they're in court together today. They are joining us from Washington. Johnnie Cochran and Kenneth Starr, good to have you both with us.
I know we just saw a picture of the three men that you are defending, defending three men who--who shackled themselves--chained themselves to the fence of the embassy of Sudan in Washington. Right?
Mr. JOHNNIE COCHRAN (Attorney): That's correct. On--on Good Friday, as it were.
GIBSON: Why--why did they do it, Johnnie?
Mr. COCHRAN: Really to protest the slavery and the barbaric treatment of the government of Sudan toward its citizens. We're--we're here today, and--Ken and I--and have joined forces on this--this very important issue of slavery in Sudan. Modern day slavery, the treatment of women and children is just incomprehensible. The president in a speech this month described it as atrocities, you know, unbelievable atrocities of this government. And the eyes of the world have to be on that country.
GIBSON: Ken, the three men you're defending, one of them is a very liberal talk show host. One of them is the former delegate...
Mr. KENNETH STARR (Attorney): The Black Eagle.
GIBSON: ...to Congress...
Mr. STARR: Right.
GIBSON: ...from Washington, DC.
Mr. STARR: Walter Faunteroy (ph), yeah.
GIBSON: And one is a very conservative lawyer who served in the Reagan administration. Johnnie is defending the very conservative lawyer, and you are defending the liberal talk show host and the delegate from Washington. That seems also strange.
Mr. STARR: Well, I think the arrangement really does symbolize the unity that really the entire American people should have, and, indeed, people around the world should have that this really does have to come to a stop. And that these three very brave men from their different backgrounds, and I've known Reverend Fauntroy for over 20 years and my choralist for 20 years. And I'm an admirer of the Black Eagle, Joe Madison, as he's known here in this community, who's really a terrific and strong voice for very important causes. And certainly, this is a critical cause that, as Johnnie says, is bringing people together to protest the incredible atrocities and the genocide and the religious persecution that's under way at the hands of the government of the Sudan. And people should rise up and say, `We want to do something about it.' And that's what these three defendants did in the exercise of their First Amendment rights.
GIBSON: Ken, I--I'm curious as to how you defend them. Civil disobedience is obviously a long-honored practice in this country. But one who civilly disobeys normally is expected to pay the penalty. So they're charged, as I understand it, what is the actual charge? It's illegal...
Mr. STARR: The actual charge...
GIBSON: ...entry, right?
Mr. STARR: Right. It's unlawful entry. And the long and short of the matter is that these individuals were not, in fact, interfering with the orderly operations of the embassy, but they were expressing symbolically in this quiet and nonviolent way their strong disapproval and their outrage at the practices of the government of Sudan. So we'll, of course, see what happens in court. But we plan to make sure that the cause and the plight of the women and children and obviously the--the murders have been--an estimated two million people have lost their lives. And then modern day slavery. And to hear Joe Madison speak about this, and Walter Fauntroy speak about what this means and how horrible this is in the modern age to have modern day slavery is very moving. That is what moved them to do what they did.
GIBSON: Johnnie, I'm sure people--most people are rather murky on what the situation in Sudan is. I know there was a coup there a little more than a decade ago, a military coup.
Mr. COCHRAN: Yes.
GIBSON: And the--and the government has sort of shut down the country. And food relief, I know, has not gotten in because there is a bitter division between the north and the south in that country. And--and people are dying. I gather many expected to starve this year. But--but slavery?
Mr. COCHRAN: Yes. Slavery. I mean, as you mentioned, starvation. They've prohibited UN flights there. As Ken has said, a number have died there, 4.5 million people in exile. Another million who've--are actually displaced, and another million or so in exile in this country. It's an--it's an--it's an abomination of what's happening. They've had gen--genital mutilation of women, slavery, primarily of the black Sudanese in the south by the government, prohibition on food for these people who are actually literally starving to death.
And what our clients have done in the exercise of their--their--their rights is call attention to this. We don't think this is a violation, Charlie. And we think this will bring attention to this--this--this regime which really should be out of power, clearly. Here we are in the year 2001, and it's pretty frightening. We're calling for the US to even do more, to withdraw assets on this country. We're calling for a tribunal as we have in The Hague for the former Yugoslavia, to put these people on trial for their war crimes. And a number of other things. And we'll see others, I think, Charlie, being arrested at that embassy to call attention. And I must say that I'm very, very pleased and proud to join with Ken Starr, a distinguished and fine lawyer, in this very, very important cause.
GIBSON: Well, your three clients called attention to the situation by their civil disobedience, and you two by getting together certainly call attention to the situation, as well. As we say, not two people that you would expect to be working together, but good that you are. Thanks, both, for being with us. Appreciate it.
Mr. COCHRAN: Thank you.
Mr. STARR: Thank you. It's good to be here.
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