Anti-deportation protester found guilty

Issue 
More than 60 people took part in a vigil outside the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on September 2.

More than 60 people took part in a vigil outside the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court on September 2 to support Jasmine Pilbrow who was found guilty of “interference with a crew member of an aircraft”.

In February last year, Pilbrow refused to take her seat on a Qantas aircraft in which a Tamil asylum seeker was being taken to Darwin before being deported to Sri Lanka.

Melanie Brown told the gathering her friend had peacefully explained to others on the plane her reasons for taking the action. Two other people then also stood up.

More than 60 people took part in a vigil outside the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court on September 2 to support Jasmine Pilbrow who was found guilty of “interference with a crew member of an aircraft”.

In February last year, Pilbrow refused to take her seat on a Qantas aircraft in which a Tamil asylum seeker was being taken to Darwin before being deported to Sri Lanka.

Melanie Brown told the gathering her friend had peacefully explained to others on the plane her reasons for taking the action. Two other people then also stood up.

More than 60 people took part in a vigil outside the Broadmeadows Magistrates' Court on September 2 to support Jasmine Pilbrow who was found guilty of “interference with a crew member of an aircraft”.

In February last year, Pilbrow refused to take her seat on a Qantas aircraft in which a Tamil asylum seeker was being taken to Darwin before being deported to Sri Lanka.

Melanie Brown told the gathering her friend had peacefully explained to others on the plane her reasons for taking the action. Two other people then also stood up.

In pleading not guilty, Pilbrow told the court it was not a crime to stand up for a man whose life was at risk.

Pilbrow quoted a provision of the criminal code that says a person is not criminally responsible for an offence if it was carried out “in response to circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency”.

She said her actions were in the context of what she believed was a sudden or extraordinary emergency — the Tamil asylum seeker's deportation and possible persecution in Sri Lanka.

“My actions were reasonable because the safety of another person's life was at stake,” she said. “My actions were reasonable and it was effective because my peaceful stance resulted in this man being taken off the plane.”

But Magistrate Meaghan Keogh did not accept Pilbrow's defence and found Commonwealth prosecutors had proved the charge.

Keogh said just because a person had strong personal beliefs it did not mean they were not criminally liable for an offence. Pilbrow will be sentenced on November 11.

Suriyan, from the Tamil community and People for Human Rights and Equality, compared Pilbrow's action to that of Rosa Parks, who defied the segregation laws in the United States.

He told the crowd outside the court that Sri Lanka is on paper a parliamentary democracy but Tamils live in fear. The police and army violate human rights with impunity, including using torture and he called for a moratorium on deportations to Sri Lanka.

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