Judge frees two activists who refused to testify about anarchism

Feb 28, 2013

Two young people who refused to testify to a grand jury about their ties to anarchists are getting out of prison today. They spent more than five months confined to a federal detention center in SeaTac until a judge ordered them released.

Matt Duran and Katherine Olejnik live in Olympia and have long histories of activism – including ties to anarchists. They’ve given evidence that they had nothing to do with the violent protests last May Day in downtown Seattle. But they were both subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury.

They refused to give evidence about other people in the anarchist world and were both sent to jail for civil contempt. Duran’s lawyer Kimberly Gordon says he became even more adamant against testifying.

"Once he got in to custody and saw the conditions – what life was like inside – he said `I could never look myself in the mirror if I played any part of sending anyone else here. It’s just too awful of an experience,'" Gordon said.

Duran and Olejnik spent part of the time in solitary confinement. Gordon says her client’s health deteriorated because he couldn’t maintain his vegan diet.

Sending someone to jail for civil contempt is supposed to compel them to testify. But the federal judge says this had turned into punishment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. But last September, the U.S. attorney’s office said they’re trying to figure out who crossed the line last May Day and turned a peaceful protest into a violent one.

The Los Angeles Times has done extensive reporting on Duran and Olejnik, including these two stories:

Anarchist probe: Jailed activists say they won't talk to feds

Anarchists targeted after Seattle's violent May Day protests