New York City – Supporters of human rights attorney Steven Donziger are rallying the evening of July 6 in Manhattan to mourn the deaths of 2,000 residents of the Amazon rainforest and to demand his release after 700 days of house arrest after he helped Indigenous peoples in Ecuador win a historic $9.5b pollution case over Chevron. Courts in Ecuador in 2013 found the oil giant deliberately dumped 16 billions gallons of cancer- causing oil waste, poisoning ancestral lands in the Amazon and hurtling several Indigenous peoples toward extinction.
Rather than pay the judgement, Chevron launched a “demonize Donziger” campaign in the United States that has involved 60 law firms and 2,000 attorneys in an effort to try to criminalize the attorney. Donziger has now endured almost two years of house arrest in New York City after a pro-Chevron judge and former tobacco industry lawyer charged him with misdemeanor contempt for refusing to turn over his computer and cell phone to the company. The charge carries a maximum 6-month sentence, but the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer convicted of the charge is only 90 days of home detention or 7 times less than Donziger already has served. Donziger also is being prosecuted by a private Chevron law firm after the government rejected the case. His supporters consider him a corporate political prisoner.
Donziger is the only person ever charged in the U.S. with criminal contempt for appealing a court order related to discovery in a civil case, according to the legendary civil rights attorneys Martin Garbus and Ron Kuby, who represent him.
Donziger has won enormous support around the world from 68 Nobel laureates, 37 bar association, thousands of lawyers, human rights groups like Amnesty International and Global Witness, environmental groups like the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion, as well as from actor Susan Sarandon, musician and Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters, six U.S. Congresspersons including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Talib, human rights lawyer Sarah Leah Whitson, New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, and Jeremiah Cedeno, founder of City Workers for Justice.
Donziger led the legal team that won a historic $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in 2013 for dumping 16 billions of gallons of oil into the Ecuadorian Amazon, and has since been the victim of a corporate political prosecution by the oil giant.
Event: Rally To Free Steven Donziger
Date: Tuesday, July 6
Time: 6 p.m. ET
Time: 7:30 p.m ET Ceremony and Vigil
Place: 245 West 104th
Susan Sarandon, Actress, activist
Roger Water—Musician, founder of Progressive Rock and Pink Floyd,
Joyce Sanchez —NY County Committee Member, District 37
Alessandra Biaggi — New York State Senator and Activist
Ron Kuby — Donziger Defense Team
Giada Lubomirski — Founder, Ecoshaker
Sarah Leah Whitson — Human Rights Attorney, Donziger law classmate
Sandy Nurse —2021Candidate for NYC Council District 37
Jeremiah Cedeno —Founder, City Workers for Justice
Ceremony and Vigil
Led by Lino Wamputstrik — President and Leader, Shuar Nation (Ecuador)
After the Justice Department declined to charge Donziger with contempt, Judge Lewis Kaplan appointed a private law firm (Seward and Kissel) to prosecute him. Seven months after placing Donziger under house arrest, Kaplan disclosed that Chevron was a client of her law firm. Ignoring the usual practice of random case assignment, Kaplan named Loretta Preska to preside over the casc. Preska is a leader of the Chevron- funded Federalist Society and has taken right-wing positions as a judge, including ruling that evangelical schools can use parts of public school buildings in New York City.
Members of Congress, Nobel Laureates, and organizations including Amnesty International USA, Amazon Watch and 11 other human rights and environmental groups are among those denouncing the unprecedented legal attacks on Donziger, calling for the Department of Justice to intervene in the case.
For more information, visit FreeDonziger.org.