HARRISBURG, Pa. — Prosecutors dropped the charges Friday against six men arrested for protesting the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal by stripping down to their thong underwear and forming a human pyramid during a visit by President Bush.
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Lancaster County District Attorney Donald R. Totaro said prosecutors would not have been able to prove the defendants’ actions served “no legitimate purpose” — a requirement under the state’s disorderly conduct law.
“The mere presence of unwilling viewers does not determine whether unwelcome views are prohibited from public forums,” he said.
He said that pressing charges “would only serve to advance the agenda of six protesters through a very public forum.”
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Paula Knudsen, who represented one of the defendants, said: “We’re pleased that the charges have been withdrawn and that the district attorney recognized the importance of the First Amendment values at stake.”
The men, ages 18 to 32, were arrested along the motorcade route during a July 9 visit by Bush to an elementary school in Amish country, about an hour west of Philadelphia. They were recreating an image from photos taken inside the prison near Baghdad in which Iraqi prisoners were abused by U.S. captors.
Knudsen said East Lampeter Township Police violated the defendants’ constitutional right to free speech.
If convicted, the men could have received up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
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