Portland church plans panel forum on torture

Posted June 14, 2009, at 10:14 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A retired U.S. Air Force interrogator will join representatives from religious, civil liberties and human rights groups to talk about the use of torture at a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, 425 Congress St.

“Out of the Shadow of Torture: How to Move Our Nation Forward to Accountability” is sponsored by the Maine Council of Churches, Amnesty International, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

The format will allow each speaker 20 minutes to present his views, followed by questions from the audience, according to a press release sent out Thursday by the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

The panel discussion is one of several events to be held around the state this month in observance of Torture Awareness Month, which is part of a campaign among religious leaders to stop the practice of torture and to understand it as a moral issue.

“For thousands of people of many faiths across Maine and the nation, torture is above all a moral issue,” the Rev. Jill Saxby, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, said in the press release. “Because every human being is made in the image of God, torture is morally corrosive.

“We believe past U.S. policies and practices of torture must be fully investigated so that we can understand how America came to be a country that tortures,” she continued. “Then we must legislate, clearly and comprehensively, to ensure safeguards that will prevent this from ever happening again.”

Speakers will include Matthew Alexander, author of “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.” The retired Air Force interrogator, who uses a pseudonym for security reasons, describes in the book how he and others used conventional interroga-tion practices to gain information leading to the location of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, a leader in al-Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed by U.S. bombs three years ago.

Other panelists are Tom Parker, director of Amnesty International’s Counter Terror with Justice Campaign; Ben Wizner, an attorney in the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project; the Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture; and George Hunsinger, a pro-fessor at Princeton Theological Seminary, editor of “Torture is a Moral Issue” and founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

For more information, call the MCLU at 774-5444.

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