By Brian Messenger
ANDOVER — A two-day effort by lawyers and academics to coordinate war crimes prosecution against top U.S. officials begins today at the Wyndham Andover hotel.
The conference was originally scheduled to be on the Federal Street campus of the Massachusetts School of Law, but met with opposition from some alumni.
The conference is being hosted by law school Dean Lawrence Velvel.
The 18 participating speakers include authors, academics, lawyers, journalists and members of the American Civil Liberties Union and New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights.
The conference will begin at 9 a.m. today and concludes Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps the best-known participant in the conference is author and former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, a trial he later outlined in his best-selling book "Helter Skelter."
Velvel did not return calls seeking comment this week, but wrote in a June statement announcing his plans to hold the conference that President George W. Bush and other top U.S. leaders must be tried for war crimes.
The present location of the conference was not made public by Velvel or the law school, but was revealed this week by North Andover-based public relations agency Bulldog Communications.
Andover lawyer and Massachusetts School of Law graduate Peter Cotch said he was pleased the conference was moved off campus.
Cotch urged the school's board of trustees to review Velvel's standing as dean when the conference was first announced.
"Larry Velvel is certainly entitled to his own political activities and cultural pursuits, but they should not be confused with the mission of the law school, which is to educate lawyers," Cotch said.
Andover attorney Arthur Broadhurst, a member of the school's board of trustees, said he called Velvel after learning of the conference and was told by the dean the event would be held off campus.
"He wasn't ordered to," said Broadhurst. "When I had talked to him to find out what was going on, he had told me he wasn't going to be doing it on campus."