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Lawmakers urge release of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger, who took on Chevron in Ecuador

Attorney Steven Donziger spent decades fighting Chevron and represented 30,000 Lago Agrio residents suing the polluter over water and soil contamination, ultimately winning a $9.5 billion judgment in 2011.

Several lawmakers, including the progressive representatives known as The Squad, have signed a letter urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene in the case of attorney Steven Donziger, who was sentenced to six months in prison for criminal contempt. The charge stems from Donziger refusing to turn over devices with client communications in 2014 after Chevron filed a complaint alleging that the lawyer had engaged in conspiracy and criminal conduct over the course of the 25-year legal battle against the oil giant in Ecuador.

A judge found that Donziger and his team bribed an Ecuadorian judge and ghostwrote a crucial environmental report used in the case. Both claims have been called into question, with Judge Alberto Guerra admitting to fabricating bribery allegations as well as allegations that his judgment was written for him by Donziger and his colleagues. It’s a complicated case, in some ways, but one thing is clear: Chevron has put all its might into taking down Donziger because he was able to successfully hold the polluter accountable on behalf of Indigenous and marginalized communities in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador.

“It’s vital to remember that Chevron does not dispute that its predecessor company Texaco deliberately discharged at least 16 billion gallons of toxic oil drilling waters over the course of decades as a cost-saving measure,” lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was signed by Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Chuy Garcia. “This grave injustice at the hands of a U.S. corporation was premeditated and remains an untreated toxic waste site the size of the island of Manhattan.” Additional signees include Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Presley, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Barbara Lee, and Raul Grijalva.



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