Pine Gap Trial DPP Appeal – Sat August 4th 2007
GOVT. CONTINUES HEAVY-HANDED APPROACH
Despite the embarrassment of the Haneef debacle the Howard government continues its "vindictive and bloody-minded" approach to national security, lodging an appeal to increase the sentences of four Christian pacifists convicted of entering Pine Gap in December 2005.
The Pine Gap Four - Bryan Law of Cairns, Jim Dowling of Dayboro, Adele Goldie of Brisbane and Donna Mulhearn of Sydney - were found guilty of breaching the virginal Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, and were handed minor fines (ranging from $450 to $1250) by Justice Sally Thomas on June 15th after an intense three-week trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. Justice Thomas noted the defendants’ good behaviour and co-operation in her sentencing decision.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) says that a fine of any kind is manifestly inadequate in this case, and has launched an appeal seeking custodial sentences for the non-violent activists.
On December 9th 2005 under the banner "Christians Against ALL Terrorism", the four broke into Pine Gap to conduct a Citizen's Inspection, with the intention of highlighting the base's - and Australia's - role in the Iraq war.
Previous incursions into the base have resulted in charges of trespass, but Attorney-General Philip Ruddock created legal history by directing the DPP to charge the group under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act, carrying a sentence of up to seven years gaol.
"This spotlights the political climate of fear and paranoia we are living with today," said Donna Mulhearn.
In sentencing, Justice Thomas found the activists had behaved non-violently at all times, were genuine in their beliefs, had organised in advance to reassure authorities of their non-violent intentions, were co-operative, and that the actions taken had not resulted in any person suffering loss, injury or trauma.
Justice Thomas noted that Pine Gap has a significant history of protest and trespass, with past trespassers being fined. "It's a big step up to talk about a jail sentence," she said during the trial. "A prison sentence is one of last resort." She also noted that use of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act was a serious escalation in proposed punishment.
When lodging their appeal, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) claimed that Justice Thomas had failed to give proper weight to both general and individual deterrence, and had given the activists too much credit for co-operation. Crown Prosecutor Mr Hilton Dembo said during the trial the Citizen’s Inspection had "struck at the heart of national security". Nine barristers and lawyers representing the DPP, ASIO and the Federal Police appeared for the prosecution case, while the Pine Gap Four represented themselves.
"If Christians Against ALL Terrorism (CAAT) was handing out awards for fear-mongering hyperbole," said Bryan Law, "then Crown Prosecutor Hilton Dembo would be a leading contender for 2007.
"Non-violent action doesn’t ‘strike at the heart of national security’ – waging an unjust war and inciting fear, paranoia and hatred is what has struck at the heart of Australia’s security over the past five years.
"The Commonwealth government are being vindictive and bloody-minded in pursuing this further," he said.
The matter will now go to the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal.
For more information contact:
Bryan Law 0403 049 566
Jessica Morrison 0431 519 577
Katie McRobert 0408 468 992
Donna Mulhearn 0422 749 319