PORTLAND, Ore. — The armed occupiers who seized a remote bird sanctuary in Oregon early this year are being tried because their actions intimidated and threatened federal employees, not because they challenged the government’s land policies, a prosecutor said Tuesday as a trial began for seven people accused in the standoff.

During his opening statement, Geoffrey Barrow dismissed claims by group leader Ammon Bundy and others that the takeover was a legitimate protest of federal land management. Bundy and his brother Ryan, who’s also on trial, are part of a Nevada ranching family embroiled in a long-running dispute over land use.

“We are not prosecuting the defendants because we don’t like what they think or said,” Barrow told jurors. “We are prosecuting them because of what they did.”

After the land was seized, the government left the group alone for weeks until the last few holdouts abandoned the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after 41 days.

The seven on trial are charged with conspiring to impede Interior Department employees from doing their jobs through intimidation or threats.

Marcus Mumford, defense attorney for Ammon Bundy, said in his opening statement that the occupation had nothing to do with impeding U.S. employees.