A U.S. judge here yesterday ordered the District of Columbia to release by tomorrow the four remaining tractors it had seized from protesting farmers if the people claiming them can show "reasonable proof of ownership."
U.S. District Judge Harold H. Green did not spell not what would constitutes such proof, but said that "if the District has no reason to believe the farmer is not the owner, the tractor ought to be released."
His ruling is expectd to make it easier for those claiming the tractors, which were seized when their drivers were arrested during the American Agriculture Movement's protests.
The farmers had claimed that D.C. police made it unreasonbly hard for them to retrieve their tractors by requiring purchase and insurance documents, papers the farmers say often do not exist or are filed in their home states hundreds of miles away.
Judge Greene's ruling came in a suit by the farmers seeking to claim the impounded machines.
The farmers' lawyer, W. Edwars Thompson, argued that his clients were victims of harassment, but the judge said he had not "really seen any evidence of harassment."
Greene sais that if the tractors were not released within 48 hours, he will hold another hearing Monday.