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The Hilton Bombing

How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game
– Dylan

Infiltration and entrapment at the Hilton Bombing?

Review of The Hilton Bombing – Evan Pederick and the Ananda Marga by Imre Salussinzky, published by Melbourne University Press

Imre Salusinszky’s biography authorised by Evan Pederick defends Special Branch, ASIO, police and armed forces against allegations they were somehow involved in the Hilton Bombing. Salusinszky can barely conceal his contempt for supporters of Tim Anderson, one of the Ananda Marga members charged. Anderson was convicted by a jury of the Hilton bombing murders based on evidence given by Pederick. Was the jury influenced by bias against a religious sect as occurred in the conviction of Lindy Chamberlain for the murder of her daughter Azaria? Like Chamberlain, Anderson’s conviction was subsequently quashed by a higher court.

But why would Australian security forces want to blow up a visiting Indian Prime Minister Desai at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference and try to pin the attempted murder on a leader of an obscure religious sect, the Ananda Marga? A retired General told me that MPs wanted Prime Minister Fraser to secure their departure from the Hilton by lining the road from Sydney to Canberra with soldiers. The Army General said that he opposed such a move because, even if this were possible, it woud not improve security for the dignitaries.

An Indian friend told me once that security forces in India often tried to accuse the Ananda Marga of terrorist activity, but could prove nothing against them. In 1971, their leader in India, P.R. Sharka, was arrested of murder of Ananda Marga members but was released in August 1978 after his appeal to the high court of India was upheld.

Salusinszky is mocking of a theory put forward by John Jiggens in his book The Incredible Exploding Man that Pederick’s story claiming to be the Hilton Bomber was a fantasy. Salusinsky is scathing of Jiggens:

Without even meeting Evan, Jiggens identified a profound mental illness that four clinical psychologists, interviewing him for hours, failed to spot, instead declaring him sane and normal.

Salusinszky also claims Pederick was sane despite his certainty that Baba (PR Sharka) intervened from his prison cell in India to prevent him from murdering Desai. The bomb didn’t go off, at least not then. Alas hapless garbage workers and policeman were not so lucky. Later that night they copped the full force of a bomb planted in a bin outside the Hilton. Salusinszky is certain Pederick was the bomber and that Anderson influenced him to kill Desai because Baba had not been released. Why is it that the rich and powerful go unharmed but ordinary workers cop it in the neck?

How would we know what really happened? Salusinszky spends a lot of time arguing for Pederick’s claim he was the Hilton Bomber. His whole book is dedicated to this premise. Yet, he did not know Pederick in 1978 when Evan was supposed to have left explosives at the Hilton resulting in the deaths and ruin of many lives.

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In Queensland, Special Branch files were used to prevent their subjects ever getting a job in the State Public Service. They were used against trade unionists trying to protect their jobs and to work in a safe environment.

Frame-up cover
Poster “Frame-up – Who Bombed the Hilton?” Pam Debenham Tin Shed Posters 1984 (Click to see original).

In Brisbane, in the late 1970s  the religious sect Ananda Marga were active in helping unemployed, including organising soup kitchens for aboriginal people.

Evan Pederick, had been arrested with thousands of other people marching for democratic rights and opposing uranium mining and export. According to the book, The Hilton Bombing, Pederick claims that the Ananda Marga hierarchy had told him to ‘infiltrate’ the right to march and anti-uranium movements in Brisbane in 1977.

Pederick says that Michael Brandon, aka Dada Abniik, a senior Margi, asked him to get involved with the ‘left-wing student-led protest’ movements against Bjelke-Petersen. The words used by Salusinszky to describe Pederick’s involvement show contempt for the protestors, sounding more like parody of activists than a description of a real attempt by a wide section of society fed up with their minority government and its insistence on mining and exporting uranium.

Salusinzky describes it this way:

It was a big ask for Evan: cerebral, reserved and aploitical, he was being ordered to become a rabble rouser. All of this considered, he made a good fist of it. He printed off leaflets, took part in the marches and got himself arrested: once for marching illegally, and then, in a case of double-dipping that rankled with him for years, for spraying graffiti on the walls of the police cell he was thrown into with his new comrades.

Civil Liberties Co-ordinating Committee (CLCC) records show that Evan Pederick was summonsed for postering and that he received a $30 fine, $25 professional costs and $15 court costs. A $70 fine in all.

Pederick was also arrested in an illegal street march on 11 November 1977, the eve of the Queensland state elections. The charges were ‘disobey a police direction’ and ‘unlawful procession’. One hundred and ninety-seven people on similar charges were crushed into the South Brisbane watchouse. Democratic rights were suspended on the eve of an election. As a direct result of the campaign there was a 10% swing against the government in metropolitan areas and 7% swing overall.

Pederick’s name appeared on the arrest list for that day. Also in the cells was Matt Foley who, in 1992, became the Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts in the Goss Labor government.

Evan Pederick, only 22 years of age, etched his name on the concrete cell wall of the South Brisbane Watchouse. Pederick says this incident occurred in the Roma Street watchouse across the river, not yet built in 1977. Pederick also claims he ‘was rankled by the charge for years later’ which he claims was spraying graffiti on the wall of his cell. He says police were engaging in ‘double dipping‘ having got him on one charge they throw him in a cell and get him on another. I do not understand the logic of this. Why blame the watchouse sergeant when you were stupid enough to put your own name to the slogan on the wall?

Police had his address as 139 Latrobe Terrace Paddington but never interviewed him for the Hilton murders, at least not until 1989.

Pederick’s account is not consistent with my recollection of what happened. I think I read his protest on the wall when I was arrested with hundreds of others at a trade union rally on 3 December 1977. The words I saw were etched in pencil or biro, not spray-painted. Be my recollection accurate or not, after street march arrests, protestors were required to surrender all their belongings to the desk sergeant. For Pederick to smuggle in a spray can into his cell seems improbable.

Police records show watchouse Inspector Harris charged Evan Pederick with wilful damage. CLCC records show that on 14 Feb 1978, Pederick was convicted in absentia in the Magistrate’s Court for disobey direction, unlawful procession and wilful destruction. He was fined $120, a lot of money in those days, especially if you were unemployed. So the CLCC had stumped up his bail. This was the day after the Hilton Bombing. Ordniarily his failure to turn up means that a warrant would have been issued by the magistrate for him pay the fine. The practice was that police, on serving the warrant would demand the fine or, if he failed to pay up, take him to Boggo Road jail. However, on this occasion, the court probably took the money from bail raised by the CLCC.

Yet Salusinszky portrays Pederick’s involvement in the democratic rights struggle in a different way, more as a caricature of the struggle by people determined to rid themselves of a corrupt government:

“It was almost hilarious that an uber-wowser by decree of his guru he (Pederick) now found himself among the youthful worshipers of sex drugs and rock and roll he found the language confronting swearing was banned in Ananda Marga but the energy of it all excited him the experience accelerated his overall radicalisation which may have been the PT. But there were moments that disgusted him as when a demonstrator who was ranting in an unhinged way needlessly kicked a cane toad during a March through the botanic gardens.”

To characterise the right-to-march campaign solely as a student struggle is incorrect. Evan became active in the unemployed workers union in Brisbane. In July 1978, Joh Bjelke-Peterson, then premier of Queensland, claimed that a direct threat had been made against his life by the Ananda Marga and that he was on a death list provided to him by Queensland police. Yet Queensland police denied that they had any such death list.

By 1982 the Ananda Marga were receiving threats from police. A teacher in Brisbane who was in the group says there were several incidents of victimization and harassment of members of Ananda Marga by the Queensland police: ‘It is suspected that the Brisbane police might try to frame members of A.M. with trumped up charges in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games (protests) scheduled for October in Brisbane.’

Much of the police harassment of the Ananda Marga is documented in a pamphlet called Who Bombed the Hilton?Framed. This document was released by the Campaign Alister Dunn and Anderson (CAADA). My copy was printed in an old shed in the back of the West End Learning Exchange by a member of the Brisbane Unemployed Workers Union.

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In 1991, Bjelke-Petersen was finally brought to account for one of his crimes by the Department of Public Prosecutions. A policeman active in the arrests of Queensland political activists, Det Sgt Barry Cornelius O’Brien, acting as a private investigator, vetted Joh’s jury on behalf of his defence team. Joh went to trial for lying to the Fitzgerald Inquiry about taking bribes from developers and miners. A National Party member was allowed into the jury based on information supplied by O’Brien to Bjelke-Petersen’s lawyers. The Joh jury was unable to come to a verdict because the National Party member held out against the rest. Crown law chief ‘Bulldog’ Drummond later entered a nolle prosequi against Petersen freeing him from any further charges.

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The Hilton Bombing

160135-chaos-in-the-wake-of-the-sydney-hilton-bombing
Garbage Truck destroyed outside the Hilton Hotel Sydney, 1978.Two garbage workers and a policeman died at the scene. Photo: Sun Herald

Two council workers and a policeman died when a gelignite bomb exploded in the early hours of February 13, 1978, as the bin it had been placed in was emptied into a garbage truck. Much pointed to the Australian security forces. No one was charged with the murder of those men till April 1990.

However on the 15th of June 1978 the ‘Margies’ (the special branch’s corruption of this term was ‘Maggots’) Alister, Dunn and Anderson were arrested for conspiring to kill a local neo-nazi, Robert Cameron.

Pederick and his partner Carmel were active around West End in Brisbane during this time and later.

flying with the crows.jpg
Qld Premier Bjelke-Petersen speaking at a meeting in Blackall, 1,000 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, when the Miss Australia of 1968, Mrs Helen Bonner, then Miss Helen Newton, began asking questions about civil liberties in Queensland. “If you fly with the crows you get shot with the crows”, Mr Bjelke-Petersen told her. Cartoon: John Hague in Guilt by Association KW Vista (LeftPress).

Strangely, in May 1989, Pederick made admissions to Queensland CIB detectives that he had participated in the bombing outside the Hilton hotel along with Tim Anderson. Anderson had been separately charged with the bombing based on the account of a criminal by the name of Denning.

Police had no record of Pederick taking part in any of the earlier actions involving Alister, Anderson and Dunn. At the time of the Hilton bombing, Pederick’s political activities had been confined to Brisbane where he had participated in the non-violent democratic rights movement.

He was a member of the Unemployed Workers Union which was located in the old Trades Hall in Upper Edward Street, hardly a place from which to carry out a terrorist attack. Pederick had voiced his concerns about violence against innocent people. Yet he was duly convicted on evidence based on his confessions given to police implicating himself and Anderson.

Was Pederick motivated to get Anderson and the only way he could do that was by implicating himself?  Why he would do that is unclear. Perhaps Anderson had shunned him as a friend? In 1989, despite no real evidence, Pederick was sentenced to jail for the murder of the innocent garbage workers and a policeman. In Pederick recanted his admission of guilt but his attempt to open up a full inquiry was rejected by the courts. He was released from prison in 1997.

In 1989, at trial, Tim Anderson was acquitted despite the unreliability of evidence given against him by Evan Pederick.

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Evan Pederick later gave this curious explanation for his admissions of guilt (in a News Ltd report):

“Is it possible that in 1978, dominated by the influence of the Ananda Marga and yet in conflict with the demands of the sect, I had acquired a deep sense of guilt which expressed itself in an obsession with the cataclysmic events for which Ananda Marga was held responsible at the time? I do not know.”

Regardless of whether you accept this explanation or not, it is a big leap of faith to believe that Pederick had involvement in the Hilton Bombing based on his confessions alone. Pederick did not confess to police until 1989, 11 years after the bombing took place. Imre Salusinszky claims there is corroborating evidence adduced 12 years later in both Pederick’s and Anderson’s trials. Nevertheless courts are wary of historical evidence, recall and identification becomes difficult. Contemporaneity is lost. It is so difficult to solve a cold case.

Infiltration & Entrapment
The NSW Special Branch applied age old tactics of infiltration and entrapment to repress the political wing of Ananda Marga called PROUT. In 1985, a member of the Unemployed Workers Union put together these documents published here to explain how the Ananda Marga were framed on charges of conspiracy, murder and terrorism by Australian security forces.

Police verbals played a very big role in conviction of Tim Anderson, Ross Dunn and Paul Alister on these charges. Infiltration and entrapment was not always quite so covert here in Queensland.

Police dressed as demonstrators had been filmed urging people to march into the waiting arms of police. Provocateurs have been planted in the midst of demonstrations to incite a violent response to normally peaceful demonstrators. Nevertheless violence on the part of demonstrators was rare.

11nov1977 (2)
Plain clothes police marked with circles infiltrating ‘Joh Must Go’ demonstration on election day 12 November 1977 in King George Square Brisbane (renamed Fred Patterson Square after only elected Communist in Australia’s history )

This process of infiltration and entrapment has gone on for so long in Australia that it has become an acceptable political tool even in the ranks of the ALP. Wendy Bacon reported (SBS program Dateline), covert action in the metal and building trade unions in Australia. So extensive was the influence of certain right-wing figures that they were alleged to have used US finances to orchestrate a military coup in Fiji. These allegations were never refuted convincingly but were supported by an ABC Four Corners program.

In 1985 the Committee for the acquittal of Alister, Anderson and Dunn (CAADA) in Brisbane published a compilation of documents arguing to free the three Ananda Marga members jailed in the Cameron conspiracy case as a result of the Hilton Bombing in 1978.

It is not possible to determine who bombed the Hilton resulting in the deaths of 3 people and injuries to others. Supporters of those accused say Australian security forces planted the bomb in the garbage bin outside the Hilton in the same way Special Branch’s Richard Seary planted the ‘bomb’ on the Ananda Margas to ‘get’ them on the conspiracy charge of attempting to murder Nazi Robert Cameron.

All the security forces including ASIO and state Special Branches got extra funding after the bombing of the Hilton. It also led to the formation of the Australian Federal Police.

John Jiggins says that Evan had a hero worship/homoerotic attachment to Tim Anderson. Two people placed Anderson and his friends in jail, firstly a special branch agent, Richard Seary, and then Evan Pederick. They were extremely lucky to have escaped such a mess.

People involved in struggle for social justice need to be wary of dobbers, religious nutters and mad people.

Through many a dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ was
Betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.
– Dylan

Ian Curr
13th of January 2020

Postscript
Tim Anderson went on to become a professor of political economy at Western Sydney University and he is the author of The Dirty War in Syria.

After release from jail, Evan Pederick became an Anglican priest in Perth, WA.

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