All seven far-right militiamen who led an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in January that led to a standoff with police were found not guilty of all charges stemming from the action.
The seven anti-government men, including brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, began their 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 with at least a dozen armed men, in the latest flare-up in a nearly century-old conflict over federal control of millions of acres of public land in the West.
They surrendered when a spokesman for the group, Robert “La Voy” Finnicum was shot and killed by state police.
Charges included conspiracy to threaten, force and intimidate park officials trying to end the standoff, theft of public property and the use and carrying of a firearm.
teleSUR journalist Arun Gupta, who reported from the scene during the occupation, said that charging the militia group with conspiracy instead of what by definition is “domestic terrorism,” is an example of the “hypocrisy and double standards of the U.S. government.”
Deliberations continued until Thursday morning after a juror was dismissed over accusations of bias — the juror, a former employee of the Bureau of Land Management, had allegedly told others he is “very biased.” The federal judge told the 12-person jury to “disregard entirely” previous discussions and start anew.
Accusing the federal government of stealing land in Oregon, the group has refused to pay for cattle-grazing permits. They were demanding that the federal government hand over the rights to the refuge to individual states and residents for their own use.
Both Bundy brothers had been in jail since being arrested after the standoff ended. A separate trial will take place in February 2017 for a second group of defendants charged in relation to the standoff.
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