This is an unscheduled email but we thought it important to let people know that the Pine Gap 4 – Jim Dowling, Bryan Law, Adele Goldie & Donna Mulhearn – have been arrested and taken into custody. Media release below.
Three Christian pacifists were taken into custody this morning (Wed 13 Feb) as they prepared for a planned 2pm vigil at the Supreme Court steps in Darwin. A fourth member of the group (Bryan Law) was arrested yesterday afternoon.
The Pine Gap Four, convicted last year under the untested Defence (Special Undertakings) Act of 1952, will next week contest the DPP’s appeal against the leniency of their sentences in the Darwin Supreme Court.
Bryan Law of Cairns, Jim Dowling and Adele Goldie of Brisbane and Donna Mulhearn of Sydney will serve short jail terms (5 days – 2 weeks) as a consequence of their decision not to pay the fines imposed by Justice Sally Thomas in June 2007.
“The Federal Government,’ said Ms Mulhearn, “is involved in funding wars around the world and involved in various wars and so we made a decision that we would be very happy to take responsibility for our actions but we’re not willing to contribute financially. But we will serve our prison time in lieu of that.”
On January 4, 2008 Richard Ackland published an article in the SMH discussing “an impressive list of civil liberties violations in our relaxed and comfortable land”, listing the Pine Gap Trial as one of the “fresh outcrop of abrasions to our rights”.
The ‘Pine Gap Four’ entered the prohibited zone of the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility on December 9th 2005 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 resulted in charges of trespass, but then-Attorney-General Philip Ruddock created legal history by directing the DPP to charge the Four under the 1952 Act, carrying a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment. Barrister advising the Four, Rowena Orr, said “The Defence (Special Undertakings) Act limits the fundamental right of freedom of movement of citizens.”
Prosecuting Counsel Mr Hilton Dembo claimed the group’s deliberately non-violent and transparent actions “struck at the heart of the national security and national interest”. Justice Thomas noted that Pine Gap has a significant history of protest and trespass. “It’s a big step up to talk about a jail sentence,” she said during the 2007 trial, “a prison sentence is one of last resort.”
The group were found guilty and sentenced with minor fines on June 15 2007. Several months later the DPP decided to appeal the sentences (see below)* saying Justice Thomas failed to have regard to the maximum penalties and that the imposition of fines was “manifestly inadequate”.
“What this journey so far tells me” said Mr Bryan Law “is that the Commonwealth (in this case ASIO, the AFP, the DPP, and the DoD) is seeking to increase the criminal punishment for civil disobedience in what can only be an effort to curb political dissent.”
Ms Mulhearn and Ms Goldie have also lodged appeals against the group’s convictions. “This is based,” said Ms Mulhearn “on various points of law relating to the use of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act and other matters that did not allow us to have a fair trial.
“I don’t believe I committed a crime. What I did was an attempt to transform a military base into something open and honest. I’ve witnessed first hand the activities of Pine Gap and the result of what occurs there. I’ve seen women and children’s bodies ripped to pieces and maimed.
“We felt we had a moral obligation. As human beings we have a responsibility that rises above technical law.”
Mr Law agreed: “What’s moral is not always legal, and what is immoral is not always illegal. If there is a minor law that has to be broken in the pursuit of moral faith then I will break it.”
The Pine Gap Four follow the non-violence philosophies espoused by Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day. The appeal starts on Wednesday 20 February.
* NOTICE OF APPEAL
The appellant appeals against the sentences imposed by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia at Alice Springs on 15 June 2007 on charges of damaging Commonwealth property, contrary to section 29 Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), entering a prohibited area, contrary to section 9(1) Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cth) and use a camera in a prohibited area, contrary to section 17(1) Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cth).
- The Learned Trial Judge failed to have regard to the maximum penalties;
- The Learned Trial Judge erred by placing inadequate weight on general deterrence;
- The Learned Trial Judge erred by placing inadequate or no weight on specific deterrence;
- The sentence imposed by the Leaned Trial Judge failed to accurately reflect the objective seriousness of the offending and lack of contrition;
- The Learned Trial Judge erred in considering the Second and Third Respondents gave considerable cooperation;
- The Learned Trial Judge erred when referring to the antecedent report of the Second Respondent;
- In imposing fines, the Learned Trial Judge did not consider section 16C Crimes Act 1914 (Cth); and
Having regard to the objective facts and circumstances, the imposition of fines by the Learned Trial Judge was manifestly inadequate.
For more information contact Katie McRobert 0408 468 992
My friends groaned with concern when they heard I would spend a few days in prison.
“Be careful,” they advised with big eyes and a solemn tone, “you remember what happened on Prisoner.”
Thankfully I never watched Prisoner – that 1980s prison drama set in Cell Block C or D of some women’s prison somewhere. But I do recall there were some big, butch, angry prison officers, and less than charming inmates whose tense interactions kept the attention of Australian viewers for many years.
So with a mind free from the unpleasant images my friends have of Cell Block C, I am going into this experience naively optimistic.
That’s not to say it won’t be damn hard. But not every experience that is hard is bad.
I’m in Darwin now (Wed). They took Bryan into custody on Tuesday so that’s why I’m trying to get my thoughts together now – notes to people, instructions, what did I forget to do.
Just about everyone I have spoken to in the last month has asked me: How do you feel about going to prison?
So here’s my thoughts and questions about prison:
I am not as worried about what prison officers might say to me, as what I might say to them. You may have noticed I’m one who tends to speak my mind, whether invited to or not. If I think there is a situation that is de-humanising, I will most likely challenge it, in a friendly but firm manner. I have been encouraged to do this by experienced people, but don’t worry; I will play it by ear!
I will not be allowed to bring in anything. My clothes and possessions will be taken and I will be issued with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, the colour of which will indicate which security risk I am: low, moderate or maximum. I am curious about which colour I will get, I am also curious about how the other prisoners will cope with the sight of my legs considering I have not worn a pair of shorts for 15 years!
I am disappointed I will not be able to watch the historic Government apology to the stolen generations on Wednesday, but what an interesting place to be – a prison in the Northern Territory where 85% of the prison population are indigenous. I will be curious about their opinion.
The questions I have in my head are simple, (perhaps the same as what you might ask) they include:
Will I be able to have a pen and paper (this will essential to keep me sane!)
Will they give me a toothbrush?
Will I share a cell with Adele, or someone else, or be on my own?
Will I have any privacy at all?
What will the other prisoners be like?
If I joke with the prison officers will it be well received, or frowned upon?
Can I have a cup of tea when I want to?
Will I get any sleep with the noises and lights?
Will I be rehabilitated? (just kidding!)
Will I hate it and try to organise a break-out?
Will I wish I had watched Prisoner as a child so I least I was more prepared?
Am I gonna cope?
My attitude is this:
I was not prepared to contribute financially to the Government’s coffers by paying my fine, but in the tradition of civil disobedience I am prepared to take responsibility for my actions and accept the penalty of prison time in lieu of the fines.
It will be the next stage of a journey that started a long time ago. It is a journey that has a lot of meaning and purpose, and that’s what I will draw on when I get frustrated.
I am treating the next five days as a kind of spiritual retreat. I have made a schedule of activities in my head that includes meditation, tai chi, exercise, gospel reading and journal writing.
I have connected with prison chaplains, and they will bring me books and company. I have requested to receive communion.
In the season of lent, a time of deeper spiritual discipline, what better place could I be? The desert of Cell Block C.
I am told we will be locked in our cells from 3.30pm until 8pm the next morning – sounds like a boring stretch but I am a contemplative – solitude and quietness is food for my soul.
I am wary, I am curious, I feel strong and I feel alive.
Speaking the truth to power, despite the consequences, is always liberating.
PS: I hope to get some messages out via the prison chaplains, if not, you might hear from me again on Monday.
PPS: “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God.” Martin Luther.