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On March 17, 1984, Julie and myself pled guilty after making a deal with the prosecution to have some of the charges against us dropped and less prison time asked for. This came about after 7 months of exceedingly boring legal ritual in the courtroom, which had begun on Sept. 6, 1983. It had become painfully obvious to us over that period of time, that continuing on with the trials was pointless as it would only delay the inevitable. The chances of beating the charges were next to none, as both the judge and jury weren't going to give us any breaks, and the evidence was overwhelming, to put it mildly.
Julie ended up pleading to 7 charges. They were: conspiracy to commit robbery, possession of dangerous weapons for a dangerous purpose, attempted arson, car theft, possession of stolen property, possession of explosives for a dangerous purpose, and causing an explosion intended to damage property. I pled guilty to the first 5 of these charges as well, but not the last 2, as there was no evidence to support a case against me on them.
The attempted arson charges stemmed from the Nov. 83 firebombing of a pornographic video store by a group calling itself "Wimmin's Fire Brigade". The store was one of many such stores that specialize in videos which promote violence against women and children. The "causing an explosion" charge was in relation to the Oct. 83 bombing of a factory in Ontario (Litton Systems) which manufactures electronic components for the cruise missile. A group calling itself "Direct Action" claimed responsibility for this action.
Originally, the prosecution was asking for life sentences for both of us, but we managed to get him to come down somewhat. He finally agreed to ask for 7.5-12.5 years for each of us. Unfortunately though, the authorities in Ontario demanded to have a prosecutor represent them as well at the sentencing hearing. He was to deal with the charge stemming from the Litton bombing, and he wanted 10 additional years to whatever Julie got on the 6 other charges. It certainly wasn't the greatest deal, but it was the best we could get.
Once we had made the deal and changed our plea from innocent to guilty, we had hoped to be sentenced right away. As it turned out though, the judge made us wait until Brent, Ann, and Doug's trial was over, almost 2 months later.
Meanwhile, Brent, Ann, and Doug continued on with the first trial, as before, and it was still going nowhere. Finally, on May 6 the jury came back with guilty verdicts on all of the charges against Brent and Ann, but acquitted Doug on all but one. The most serious charge in this trial was the charge of "conspiracy to commit robbery." Though Ann and Brent unfortunately were convicted on it, Doug was lucky enough to get an acquittal on it. At any rate though, all 3 of them still face 4 more trials, which include not only the firebombing and bombing charges that I spoke of earlier, but also an additional charge of causing an explosion. This charge is in relation to the June 22, 1982 bombing of an environmentally destructive hydroelectric project on Vancouver Island, which was also done by Direct Action. Their next trial began on June 11, and it's hoped it will be more political than the last one. Anyway, back to Julie and I. On May 10, the sentencing hearing for the 2 of us finally began and lasted for 4 days. During this time still more boring legal ritual took place and the press had a field day with the prosecution's twisted portraits of us, as well as doing a little mudslinging of their own. At the end of the circus, the judge put over our actual sentencing to May 18. Our lawyers were very optimistic and the prosecution very worried that the judge was going to go pretty easy on us. As it turned out, they were all dead wrong. Sometime around noon on the day of sentencing, after a long pompous speech by the judge, I found myself suddenly doing a 10 year sentence. And Julie had done much worse. The judge had given her 20 years.
I must admit that we were surprised by the severity of Julie's sentence. This was because we had unfortunately allowed ourselves to be lulled against our instincts by a few people into believing that the state would treat this case the same way as any other "criminal" case. As dedicated revolutionaries though, we should have known better. The state is well aware of the fact that guerilla struggle is the single most effective method of bringing about change and an eventual end to oppression, and therefore is its greatest threat. Obviously, it's going to deal with it accordingly. It had to make an example of us in order to deter others from engaging in similar actions. Fortunately, this tactic has historically failed them miserably. More often than not, it only serves to show people the true nature of the state and encourages them to destroy it. Also, the state can't seem to grasp the fact that as long as oppression continues, resistance will too, and neither 20 year sentences nor even death will ever deter those truly dedicated to resisting oppression. They'll continue to fight because they know they have no choice.
Though the trials are all over with for Julie and I, the battle still continues for us, as it does for Brent, Ann, and Doug. We'd still appreciate any support people are able to give, whether financial or just moral. Of course we hope you'll all continue to write us as well. Also, you may be interested in checking out a pamphlet we recently put out. It's called "Writings Of The Vancouver Five", and includes poems, essays, and artwork by us, and is available for $1.50 from the Free The Five Defense Committee / P.O. Box 48296 / Bentall Station / Vancouver, B.C. / CANADA V7X 1A1. Anyway, take care, be strong, and resist always. The spirit of freedom cannot be subdued! In love and struggle, Gerry
The Sun, Thursday, May 24, 1984
By JES ODAM
and TERRY GLAVIN
The anger of punk rock was not enough for Julie Belmas.
So she laid down her guitar, picked up a gun and started reading books with titles such as How Terrorists Kill.
She practiced shooting at targets with human pictures drawn on them, talked about how it would be "great action" to blow up military planes and "real neat" to blow up the icebreaker named after cancer victim Terry Fox, rehearsed robbing an armored car guard and was the voice that warned that a van load of explosives was due to go off at the Litton plant in Toronto.
In the words of a Crown prosecutor, she became an urban guerrilla soldier.
And a judge, saying it was necessary for him to deter others from practicing "anarchy and terrorism" has given her a 20-year jail term.
Belmas, just 21 years old, is appealing its length.
The boyfriend she took with her from the world of punk to the world known as "Direct Action" has also been jailed.
Gerry Hannah, 27, bass player and writer of lyrics such as "---- You" for a band known as the Subhumans--once banned from the Commodore in Vancouver because of its "obnoxious" fans--was sentenced to 10 years by the same judge.
During their trial in BC Supreme Court in New Westminster, both had changed their pleas to guilty from not guilty on a number of charges.
As well as the Litton bombing, Belmas admitted conspiring to rob the guard in order to finance other activities--as well as the attempted arson of a video store, possession of weapons and explosives, possession of a stolen truck, a stolen two-way radio and other equipment and thefts of three cars.
Hannah admitted the attempted arson, robbery conspiracy, the vehicle charges and possession of stolen guns and the other equipment.
Both got 10 years for the robbery conspiracy, which the Crown said was not carried out because the two were arrested just days before it was to be committed, with lesser concurrent sentences for the other BC offences.
Belmas got a second, consecutive, 10 year term for her part in the attack with 250 kilograms of dynamite on the Litton plant, where the guidance system for the US cruise missile system is manufactured.
Five employees were injured in the bombing, as were three police officers and two passing motorists. Damage was estimated at $3.87 million.
Before sentence was passed, Belmas apologized for the injuries, which have caused permanent injury to five of the victims.
As friends looked on from the gallery, she read a prepared statement that said in part: "I meant no harm to any people. I was acting against a war machine, not against the people held within it."
Her lawyer, John Conroy, asked for a term of no more than 10 years and characterized her as a woman who was passionately committed to the ecology and anti-nuclear movements, as well as an animal lover and ardent feminist.
The judge rejected her apology, saying it was of little solace to the injured.
And he said that other Canadians share the concerns of Belmas and Hannah, but do not resort to the same violent means to reach a political objective.
The court had been told earlier that a police planted electronic bug picked up a conversation in which Belmas agreed with a friend more than a year ago that she was proud of her role in the bombing.
The bug also relayed to a listening post in the Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit headquarters talk by Belmas in December, 1982, and January, 1983, about sabotaging the defense department building in Ottawa, blowing up a number of CF18A fighter lets at the Canadian Forces Base at Cold Lake, Alberta, and dynamiting the icebreaker Terry Fox, then under construction at a North Vancouver shipyard, the judge was told.
Senior prosecutor Jim Jardine said Belmas concluded she preferred the Cold Lake proposal to the Ottawa one and said blowing up 40 CF18As "would be a great action."
Belmas was heard also to say she thought blowing up the icebreaker, to be used In oil well operations in the Beaufort Sea, "was real neat" because it showed strength and conveyed the public image of a group fighting for northern native peoples and against environmental damage.
How did Belmas, who once worked with mentally-handicapped children, and Hannah, described by his mother as one of the kindest people in the world, get involved to acts of political terrorism?
Belmas, born in New Westminster into a large, Roman Catholic family, later grew up in Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver.
She canoed, hiked, studied guitar and coached softball. Then she got a job at Woodlands school, working the night shift to look after the handicapped patients while taking an ethics course at Douglas College during the day.
But her life was changing. From helping organize benefit concerts by punk bands, she went into a magazine calling for radical activism, the feminist movement and El Salvador protests.
She met Hannah through the Subhumans and gradually both became disillusioned with what they were to later call the punk movement's lack of commitment to "real radical change."
In 1981, the pair left Vancouver for Jasper. She worked as a highways flagman, he on maintenance at a nearby ski resort--later the scene of the theft of a number of radios and other equipment that were found at a home the pair shared in New Westminster.
While in Jasper, Belmas filed a grievance against her supervisor on the road crew, charging hire with sexual harassment. The man later committed suicide.
One lawyer who later acted for Belmas said the situation had a great deal of emotional impact on her.
Hannah was born and raised in Burnaby, the youngest of five children.
His mother, Lois, says he grew up loving the environment, but watching the world around him change for the worse. As a boy he would come home with stories of turtles splashing in ponds near his home, in an area now covered by a shopping mall.
His frustration led him first to the angry music of the punk movement and fellow Burnaby North high school student Rich Zimmerman remembers he always "had some band or other going."
After dropping out of school in Grade 11, in 1974, he worked at various jobs. Then he chose the name Gerry Useless and joined the Subhumans, playing bass and writing lyrics, such as one that goes:
"You call us weirdos, call us crazy
say we're evil, say we're lazy
say we're just the violent type,
kind of dumb, not too bright.
We don't care what you say,
With Belmas, whom he called his wife to be, he became active in environmental, feminist and native rights campaigns.
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