Enoggera Five go to Court

Enoggera five outside front gate at gallipoli army barracks, enoggera, Brisbane

On 5 March five Christian activists-Cully, Jim, Christel, Andy and Sean, appeared in Brisbane Magistrate Court to face charges of “causing a public nuisance” and “disobeying a police direction without a reasonable excuse.” These charges arose from a civil disobedience action on 7 October last year outside Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane, to make the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Gallipoli Barracks is one of Australia’s largest bases, from where the most troops have been deployed to Afghanistan.

Successive Australian Governments have fully supported the war, repeatedly arguing that we ‘are bringing security to the Afghani people’, ‘we will stay the course’ and ‘we will not cut and run’. Sadly there has been little public resistance to this stand.

However on the 7th October, 25 people gathered at the front gates of the base for a moving prayer ceremony. During the ceremony five people knelt and prayed on the roadway and blocked traffic for 30-40 minutes. Army vehicles, staff, and contractors’ vehicles banked up as the five, holding photographs of civilian casualties, recited the names of the dead along with those on the footpath. The five were arrested after repeatedly refusing to move.

In court this week, the prosecutor attempted to dismiss the group’s actions as having no justification. He focussed upon the group’s refusal to follow a police direction. In cross examination police and army witnesses all denied hearing or understanding what the protesters were saying in relation to the suffering brought upon the people of Afghanistan by a war that had raged for 10 years. In countering, the 5 argued that there was ‘reasonable excuse’. They spoke of their own personal journeys, being moved by the growing suffering of the Afghani people and the Australian government’s complicity through its military involvement.

They argued strongly that the only crime being committed was that by the base and those defending it. The war being waged was illegal under the Nuremberg principles and Australia’s own criminal Code relating to war crimes. Focus was brought upon the Australian military’s participation in kill/capture operations that have resulted in many deaths of non-combatants, including on one occasion 5 children. No soldiers have been brought to account for these deaths. On other occasions deliberately false information has been provided to settle personal scores and have opponents killed.

The prosecutor repeatedly accused the group of wasting police resources and money. In countering we pointed out that the Australian government is spending $1 billion per year on this illegal war whilst Afghani children are dying of the cold, and malnutrition is widespread partly because of disruption to agriculture caused by the war .Perversely the Australian government attempts to argue our role in Afghanistan is akin to international aid, and is somehow protecting us from terrorism.

In an amazing coincidence, while stopping for lunch someone produced a copy of the day’s Courier Mail, containing an article about Afghanistan. In it, Australia’s leading Defence Studies academic, Hugh White, was berating the government for fighting a failed war, and continually deceiving the Australian public in every way. Before court restarted Jim handed a copy to the prosecutor. Sean had emphasised strongly in his evidence that our government was lying to us about the war.

The final verdicts were as to be expected, however. The public nuisance charges were dismissed, based on definition and precedent. All, however, were found guilty of disobeying a police direction. Not content with any punishment she was about to dish out, Ms Cull proceeded to harangue the group about the futility of their action and the waste of police resources. All listened patiently.

Sentences were as follows

Christel- $300 good behaviour bond, with no conviction recorded

Cully- $125 fine and conviction recorded

Sean-$250 fine and no conviction recorded

Andy-$500 fine and conviction recorded.

Jim – 3 weeks in prison, suspended for 8 months on the condition of not re-offending

All left the court in good spirits, knowing the one thing more “futile” than nonviolent resistance was the continued waging of terrorist wars. Remember, to resist is to win!

Meanwhile the Australian government stumbles along, mimicking the US government’s position on the war, and waiting to be told what to do by its master. Lack of public support seems to have little impact on it (latest polls show over 70% want to end our involvement now). Australian troops will stay until the US government tells us it’s alright to leave. The suffering of the Afghani people continues. The need for us to stand with them in saying no to war also continues.

In the words of Fr. Daniel Berrigan, ‘Know where you stand and stand there!

2 thoughts on “Enoggera Five go to Court

  1. On Monday 5 Mar 2012 Warrant Officer Second Class (name witheld) gave evidence on oath in the Brisbane Magistrates court that the Enoggera Army Base is used to assemble unarmed aerial vehicles (UAVs).

    These UAVs are used for surveillance so that the Australian can prosecute an illegal war in Afghanistan. Australian troops are involved in ‘Kill/Capture’ missions against Afghani people. UAVs are flown (presumably for training purposes) out of Amberley Airforce base west of Ipswich. Enoggera Army barracks is the major launching pad for Australian troops being delpoyed to Afghanistan.

    Of course the Warrant Officer who gave evidence is no peace activist he supports the Australian military — the only life he has known since 17 years of age (he was born in 1966). On 7th Oct 2011, the still serving warrant officer used his photographic hobby to mount his own surveillance of the peace activists.

    The Warrant Officer implied that there was no involvement by his commanding officers (he was not asked to perform this as a duty), apparently photography is just a hobby, even when it means taking between 100-120 photos of peace activists. He gave evidence about UAVs because this was part of the defence’s line of questioning. In theory the law permits ‘reasonable excuse’ as a defence against obstruction and disobey a police direction. In practice, on the day, the magistrate denied the peace activists this defence because she claimed that the action (sitting on the road) was ‘ineffectual’. The demonstrators were sincere but misguided they should have written letters and formed lobby groups was the line pushed by both police and magistrate. However the 35-40 police present did prevent vehicles from entering and leaving the base for about 35 minutes. This included concrete trucks, an armed van (carrying payroll?), and a fire truck as well as assorted small vehicles owned by tradies and soldiers.
    Australia has recently bought armed drones like the ones described in the article below (Palestine matters, not Gillard-Rudd soapies). Drones are increasingly being used used by US and the Israeli Defence Force to kill unarmed civilians like the murder of two women in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza described in the article.

    Australia is following the US and Israel in the use of drones to kill people in the war of terror being escalated across Asia Minor and the Middle East to weaken the anti-Saudi bloc. Saudi Arabia and Qatar support US interests in the region

    Israel wants to strike Iran while its ally Syria is in turmoil. While Israel/US governments say its about Iran’s nuclear program, it seems clearly designed to weaken the anti Saudi bloc. Such a strike would weaken Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

    Palestine matters, not Gillard-Rudd soapies – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

    Anyone who cares for an equitable and sustainable future for Palestinians and Israelis should care deeply and should insist that such designs and cruelty in this conflict ends.

    Obama and Netanyahu are playing a deadly game to bolster western oil supplies. Their cruelty towards against defenceless people may escalate the crisis and prepcipate misery throughout the world.

    Unfortuneately, the new Labor Foreign minister, Bob Carr, like his predecessors, is an uncritical admirer of US and Israeli wars of aggression in the Middle East and Asia Minor.

    Come you masters of war
    You that build all the guns
    You that build the death planes
    You that build all the bombs
    You that hide behind walls
    You that hide behind desks
    I just want you to know
    I can see through your masks.
    “Masters Of War” by Bob Dylan

    Ian Curr
    6 March 2012


  2. Thankyou all for your witness, with the action and court statements! Love and solidarity from all of us in Melbourne.

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