Santa Fe activist released from Irish prison

April 1, 2019

Irish authorities have released two American activists — one from Santa Fe — who were arrested and charged with trespassing and committing criminal damage during an antiwar protest at an airport on St. Patrick’s Day.

Santa Fean Kenneth “Ken” Mayers, 82, said by phone Sunday that he and Tarak Kauff, 77, of Woodstock, N.Y., were released from Limerick Prison on Friday on a bail bond of 2,500 euros (about $2,800) each. The men had spent 13 days behind bars.

Now, still stuck in Ireland, they may have to wait a year or two — or perhaps longer — to stand trial.

“One of our hosts here in Limerick is awaiting trial for a similar offense, and that trial date is set for a year from May — and that will be three years from the date of offense,” Mayers said.

On Wednesday morning, Mayers and Kauff will appear before a local district judge to request their trial be held in Dublin, where they believe they will receive a fairer hearing before jurors, Mayers said. He said local district court options only offer bench trials before judges.

If possible, at that time the two will once again ask if they can return to the United States on bail until their trial date is scheduled, a request that was denied by a judge late last week when the two were released from jail.

“We want to make our case,” said Mayers, one of The New Mexican’s 10 Who Made a Difference in 2013. “We are not only willing but want to come back for trial if they let us make our case.”

Police arrested Mayers and Kauff in Shannon, Ireland, after the pair entered an airfield to inspect an aircraft they believed was contracted to the U.S. military. Mayers, a longtime peace activist, and Kauff had joined five other members of Veterans for Peace to protest Shannon Airport’s policy of allowing U.S. military planes to stop there en route to and from the Middle East.

Though Ireland has long positioned itself as neutral when it comes to international military conflicts, it has for years offered Shannon Airport as a stopover for U.S. military aircraft.

During the protest, Mayers and Kauff spotted a plane they suspected belonged to the U.S. military and left the other five protesters to approach it, expecting to get arrested and draw attention to the aircraft, Mayers said.

Though arresting officers told the men they would likely be out of jail by morning, that’s not how it worked out.

When Mayers and Kauff initially appeared the next day in Ennis District Court in front of Judge Marie Keane, she told the men they were facing serious charges and ordered them held in Limerick Prison without bail.

As part of their bail agreement, Mayers and Kauff cannot go near or protest at Shannon Airport. That prohibition did not stop them from taking part in a local pro-Palestinian protest elsewhere on Saturday.

“The 13 days was not terribly painful. I think it was much harder on the folks at home than us actually,” Mayers said, adding he had just received a letter from his daughter asking him to vow never to protest again.

In 2002, Mayers, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1960s before resigning in 1966, co-founded the Santa Fe chapter of Veterans for Peace. Kauff served in the U.S. Army from 1959-62. In a 2013 interview with The New Mexican, Mayers said he had been arrested at least 20 times up to that date.

He said he protests because he hopes that he can make some slight difference in the world.