By Mark Matsunaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Some church leaders and an influential law Professor called yesterday for Hawaiian activist Dennis 'Bumpy' Kanahele to be freed on bail pending his federal criminal trial.
Kanahele, head of the self-proclaimed Nation of Hawaii, is scheduled to go on trial next week on charges that he harbored a federal fugitive, tax protester Nathan Brown.
Kanahele was indicted and arrested an Aug. 2. Federal Magistrate Barry Kurren ordered him held without bail, saying Kanahele is a danger to the community and a likely no-show for trial.
Federal courts have turned down two appeals to free him on bail.
But yesterday, University of Hawaii law professor Williamson Chang, who handled a landmark water rights case in the 1980s, said he will seek a court order for Kanahele's release.
Meanwhile, other support for Kanahele's release has been growing. About 40 community and religious leaders visited the nation's headquarters on state land in Waimanalo, met with his followers and signed petitions calling for him to be allowed to post bail pending trial.
Several of them held a news conference at Kawaiahao Church yesterday.
The Rev. Jim Ledgerwood, pastor of First United Methodist Church, said, "We're a nation that's founded on dissent ... It's for the courts to decide when and whether we've stepped over the line. But a decision has been made before the fact that Bumpy has stepped over the line. And it seems to me that people of good will, people of good will, people who are interested in real justice issue, must stand up and speak for his release pending his trial."
The Rev. Mike Young, new pastor of First Unitarian Church, said, "It's entirely unprecedented that someone who's been hanging around in the public eye, not hiding from anyone, should be in jail without bail for what is clearly political speech. That the whole community is not up in arms in indignation is very surprising."
Elia Loya, of the Church of the Crossroads social action committee, decried Kanahele's imprisonment while "men who have beaten their children and wives" are out on bail.
June Shimokawa, a member of Harris United Methodist Church and the Hawaii Ecumenical Coalition, said churches and their members must speak out against injustice.
She added that, "As a Japanese American, for those who experienced injustice in World War II, for us to be quiet at this point in time would be to fail to see what happened to us. We need to be here in solidarity with our host people."
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