The decision of a judge to fine a gay former solider $100 (£65.80) for chaining himself to the White House fence is a “victory” for the “exhausted” defendant, says human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
On Thursday, former US Army lieutenant Dan Choi avoided a possible six month prison sentence after a judge in Washington DC issued him with a fine of $100.
Choi was discharged from the army after violating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), a law which banned openly gay members of the armed forces.
He declared on television in 2009 that he was gay and could no longer conceal his identity.
During his trial Choi claimed his actions were justified, as they were designed to highlight the failure of the US Government to repeal DADT – which finally happened in September 2011.
DADT had been introduced in 1993 under President Bill Clinton.
On Friday, British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who attended Choi’s trial as an observer, responded to the verdict by saying: “Given that Dan could have been jailed for six months and fined $5,000 (£3291.43), this $100 (£65.80) fine is a victory.
“The judge seemed to acknowledge that the serious, rarely-used federal charges were unjustified and that Dan had been singled out from other White House protesters – none of whom faced such grave charges for similar protests.
“The derisory $100 penalty was the judge’s acknowledgement that Dan’s protest was peaceful and not a major crime. It makes the US federal prosecutors look wasteful fools for pressing such serious charges and pursuing Dan for three years at a cost of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.”
During testimony on Thursday Choi, who represented himself, became emotional and angry.
Peter Tatchell said: “The strain showed at times. At one point, he collapsed in the courtroom. At times his testimony was erratic. However, his closing statement was brilliant, soaring oratory in defence of his protests which did so much to help push (President Obama) to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and in defence of the ethics of non-violent civil disobedience.”
Mr Tatchell added: “The long drawn out trial has taken a toll on Dan’s mental and physical health. He’s defiant but completely exhausted.”