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Loggers receive suspended sentences

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Environmentalists say sentences for violent attack are too lenient when compared to sentences given to protesters

Environmental groups are outraged by a provincial court judges’ decision to hand down suspended sentences to the five forestry workers who pled guilty to charges laid in connection with an attack on a protest camp in the Elaho Valley on Sept. 15, 1999.

Interfor, the logging company that employed the five men (three employees, two contractors) is also outraged – not because of the lenient sentences, but because they believe the judge stepped over the line when she said that the attack occurred with "tacit corporate approval".

Betty Krawczyk, the 72 year-old grandmother who is serving a year in jail without parole for contempt of court after protesting Interfor’s Elaho logging operations in violation of a court injunction, is outraged that peaceful protesters go to jail while participants in an attack on peaceful protesters get a slap on the wrist.

The only contingent that has been silent so far are the forestry workers, who pled guilty last month in exchange for reduced charges.

Driller’s helper Donald Kulak, 53, mechanic Alexander MacLeod, 22, faller Leslie Zohner, 36, and mechanic Lloyd Thomas 40, pled guilty to mischief charges, while machine operator Richard James, 44, pled guilt to assault.

All five were sentenced to one year’s probation, 40 hours of community service with the Squamish Trail Society, were ordered to write letters of apology to the protesters and to attend anger management programs.

The four workers who pled guilty to mischief were also ordered to pay $1,250 each in restitution to three protesters for equipment that was damaged in the attack, including camera gear, a satellite phone and camping gear.

According to the protesters, more than 70 forestry workers wearing balaclavas participated in the assault on the protest camp, driving Interfor vehicles and communicating through company radios.

Three of the protesters, WCWC tree surveyor James Jamieson, Sharai Mustatia, and Bryce Gilroy-Scott, were hospitalized as a result of injuries sustained during the attack.

Greenpeace was just one of many environmental groups to criticize the suspended sentences as slaps on the wrist.

"In B.C., grandmothers get a year in jail for sitting peacefully in the middle of the road. Vigilantes, on the other hand, are told to take anger management courses," says Greenpeace forest campaigner Catherine Stewart. "B.C.’s international reputation will get another black eye when word of this sentence gets out, which it will."

Ken Wu, a spokesman for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, said his group was also disappointed by the sentences. "The courts have sent a strong message that violent criminal assaults against environmentalists will not be looked at as serious crimes, while those who peacefully protest the destruction of our ancient forest heritage should expect extremely lengthy jail sentences."

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