83-year-old priest ends 15 day fast

Activists and friends of an 83-year-old priest who is imprisoned for an of civil disobedience are expressing relief after he announced he has ended a 15-day fast to protest his placement in solitary confinement.

Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel is serving a three-month prison term in the Federal Detention Center near Seattle, Wash., for a July 2010 action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility is being planned.

While Bichsel was moved Jan. 10 to a prison transition facility in Tacoma, Wash, he was sent back to the federal detention center in Seattle the next day because authorities said he had received an unauthorized visit at the transition facility.

After his return to the detention facility, friends of the priest first expressed concerns when he told visitors he had been placed in solitary confinement, had started a fast upon his re-imprisonment, and was not receiving an adequate number of blankets to keep warm.

In a posting at the blog of the “Disarm Now Plowshares” group Jan. 27, Theresa Power-Drutis writes that she was able to talk with the priest Jan. 24, who told her he was to break his fast Jan. 25, and had now received an adequate number of blankets to keep warm.

Power-Drutis said Bichsel thanked his supporters for their efforts to call attention to his re-imprisonment, including hosting a vigil outside the detention facility Jan. 22.

"Thank you hugely for the vigils -- in the arctic weather -- and for the tremendous outpouring of help and consciousness you have brought about," Power-Drutis reports Bichsel as saying. "Overwhelmed and humbled am I."

For more information about Bichsel and the Disarm Now Plowshares group, see Activists express concern for imprisoned priest

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