Thursday Matt Duran and Katherine "Kteeo" Olejnik were released from the Sea-Tac Federal Detention Center where they spent the last five months for refusing to testify before a Seattle grand jury investigating the anarchist movement. A third resister, Maddy Pfeiffer, remains in prison, but has been moved from solitary confinement to the general population.
Duran and Olejnik were greeted by friends and family as they left the detention center. Their lawyers, Kim Gordon and Jenn Kaplan, had filed motions arguing that their confinement was punitive. Under the law, imprisonment for civil contempt is not supposed to punish witness but coerce them into testifying.
Duran and Olejnik had been sent to prison in September after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the anarchist movement. While ostensibly investigating vandalism that occurred during a May Day protest last year, the grand jury has been widely criticized for conducting a witch-hunt targeting people for their political ideas and affiliation. For the past five months, supporters across the country have been continually pressuring Judge Jones and District Attorney Jenny Durkan to release the grand jury resisters. Yesterday's release was a victory for the resisters and all their supporters.
According to Judge Richard Jones' decision:
"Both Ms. Olejnik and Mr. Duran have provided extensive declarations explaining that although they wish to end their confinement, they will never end their confinement by testifying. The court finds their declaration persuasive. They have submitted to five months of confinement. For a substantial portion of that confinement, they have been held in the special hosing unit of the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, during which they have had no contact with other detainees, very little contact even with prison staff, and exceedingly limited ability to communicate with the outside world. . . .
[C]onfinement in the special housing unit entails 23 hours of solitary each day and an hour of solitary time alone in a larger room each day, a single fifteen minute phone call each month. . ., and exceedingly limited access to reading and writing material. Their physical health has deteriorated sharply and their mental health has also suffered from the effects of solitary confinement. Their confinement has cost them; they have suffered the loss of jobs, income, and important personal relationships. . . . For these witnesses, however, their resolve appears to increase as their confinement continues."
"We're glad the courts have finally seen fit to stop torturing Matt and Kteeo in an effort to make them talk," said Chris of the Committee Against Political Repression. "But of course they should never have been there to begin with, and Maddy Pfeiffer remains in prison for their refusal to cooperate with this political witch-hunt."