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Two US army veterans fined €5,000 for anti-war protest at Shannon Airport in 2019

The two men were found guilty of interfering with the operation, safety or management of an airport yesterday.

Ken Mayers (left), 85, and Tarak Kauff, 80, leave Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this afternoon
Ken Mayers (left), 85, and Tarak Kauff, 80, leave Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this afternoon
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

TWO US ARMY veterans in their 80s have been fined €5,000 each for interfering with the operation of Shannon Airport as part of an anti-war protest three years ago.

Yesterday, a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court acquitted Ken Mayers (85) and Tarak Kauff (80) of criminal damage to an airport perimeter fence and of trespassing the airport with the intent to commit an offence or interfere with property.

The jury returned a majority verdict of guilty on the separate charge of interfering with the operation, safety or management of an airport by entering the runway area and causing the airport to close.

At the sentencing hearing today Tony McGillicuddy SC, prosecuting, told the court that the penalty is a fine not exceeding €250,000, two years in prison or both.

Carol Doherty, BL, defending Mr Kauff, asked the court to consider the age of her client and the fact that he has already spent just under two weeks in Limerick prison and has been unable to return to his family in the United States.

Michael Hourigan BL, defending Mr Mayers, highlighted to the court that his client has been fully cooperative throughout both the investigation and the trial. He highlighted his client’s age, his educational history and that he has also spent thirteen days in Limerick prison.

Judge Patricia Ryan said that Shannon Airport was closed for forty minutes and said it was a serious offence. She said she was taking into consideration mitigating factors such as the men’s cooperation, age, and excellent work history and that neither men have any previous convictions.

She also noted that both men had already spent thirteen days in prison and were required to remain in Ireland for the past nine months.

Judge Ryan fined the men €5000 each. She noted that both men have already lodged €2,500 as condition of their bail. She has requested that a further €2,500 each be lodged as soon as possible.

veterans-for-peace-court-case Ken Mayers (left) and Tarak Kauff holding a photo that they allege shows US troops holding weapons inside a plane at Shanon Airport. Source: Niall Carson/PA

The five-day trial heard that at around 10am on St Patrick’s Day 2019, the two men cut a hole in the airport perimeter fence with a pair of bolt cutters – causing damage to the value of €590 – before walking on to airport lands.

They were met on a taxiway by an airport officer after staff were alerted to a security breach. When asked what they were doing, the pair said they were peace protesters who were there to inspect US military aircraft. They had a folded-up banner with them.

The airport was shut down for about 40 minutes, the trial heard, with two planes delayed in departing and one cargo plane forced to stay in the air until given the all-clear.

The court heard both men served in the United States military before becoming anti-war activists in the 1960s. They are members of a US-based group called Veterans for Peace.

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From the outset, they both admitted cutting the hole in the fence and entering the airport lands.

Giving evidence to the jury, they said they did so to protest against the United States’ military use of Shannon as a stop-over enroute to places such as the Middle East.

Mayers, of Monte Alte Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Kauff, of Arnold Drive, Woodstock, New York had both pleaded not  guilty to trespass, criminal damage and interfering with the operation, safety or management of Shannon Airport on 17 March 2019.

In a statement this evening, a group of anti-war activists said that they were shocked at the decision to fine Mayers and Kauff.

“This exceptionally punitive sentence is a move clearly aimed at discouraging peaceful objection to Ireland’s complicity in war,” said Shannonwatch spokesperson Edward Horgan.

“No senior US political or military US leaders have ever been held accountable for war crimes committed in these Middle East wars, and no Irish officials have been held accountable for active complicity in these war crimes.

“Yet over 38 peace activists, including Mayers and Kauff, have been prosecuted for carrying out fully justified nonviolent peace actions at Shannon Airport in order to expose and try to prevent Irish complicity in these war crimes.”

About the author:

Isabel Hayes & Claire Henry

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