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Government withdraws subpoenas against protesters university { February 10 2004 }

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Government withdraws subpoenas against university, protesters
RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press writer
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
2004 Associated Press

(02-10) 14:32 PST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) --

Federal prosecutors withdrew a subpoena Tuesday ordering Drake University to turn over a list of people involved in an antiwar forum in November, as well as subpoenas ordering four activists to testify before a grand jury.

Brian Terrell, leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry and one of the four, told a crowd of about 100 cheering people outside the federal courthouse: "We made them want to stop, and we have to make sure they never want to do this again."

The U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment on why the subpoenas were withdrawn just one day after federal prosecutor Stephen O'Meara issued a statement acknowledging an investigation was under way.

O'Meara said the focus of the probe was alleged trespassing at the Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston that happened while a protest against the war in Iraq was taking place nearby on Nov. 16. He said the protest, in which 12 were arrested, was not the problem.

The antiwar forum at Drake University was held the previous day.

Al Overbaugh, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said the investigation was not over, but he would not comment further.

As part of the probe, prosecutors had served a subpoena last week asking the university to turn over the names of participants in the forum.

It also requested campus security records about the forum, sponsored by the Drake chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which included sessions on nonviolence training and the Iraq war.

Drake was preparing legal motions to fight the subpoena when Steve Serck, a lawyer representing the school, received word it had been dropped.

"We would have argued that it chilled the First Amendment rights of free speech and free association of our students," he said.

Civil liberties advocates welcomed the withdrawals, but said troubling questions remain. The Iowa Civil Liberties Union pledged to file legal motions and "use other avenues" to find out why the subpoenas were served in the first place.

"If it was just a trespassing investigation, why seek the membership records of the National Lawyers Guild?" asked Ben Stone, executive director of the ICLU. "If this was an attempt to chill protests through the aggressive policing of a run-of-the-mill crime, we've got a serious problem in America."

2004 Associated Press

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