Environmental justice advocates and other progressives on Friday condemned a federal judge’s decision Friday to sentence human rights lawyer Steven Donziger to six months in prison—following more than two years of house arrest related to a lawsuit he filed decades ago against oil giant Chevron.
“Chevron caused a mass industrial poisoning in the Amazon that crushed the lives of Indigenous peoples. Six courts and 28 appellate judges found the company guilty. Fight on.”
The sentence, delivered by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York City, represents “an international outrage,” tweeted journalist Emma Vigeland following its announcement.
Donziger’s sentence came a day after the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said it was “appalled” by the U.S. legal system’s treatment of the former environmental lawyer and demanded the U.S. government “remedy the situation of Mr. Steven Donziger without delay and bring it in conformity with the relevant international norms” by immediately releasing him.
Donziger represented a group of farmers and Indigenous people in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador in the 1990s in a lawsuit against Texaco—since acquired by Chevron—in which the company was accused of contaminating soil and water with its “deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of cancer-causing waste into the Amazon.”
An Ecuadorian court awarded the plaintiffs a $9.5 billion judgment in 2011—a decision upheld by multiple courts in Ecuador—only to have a U.S. judge reject the ruling, accusing Donziger of bribery and evidence tampering. Chevron also countersued Donziger in 2011.
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