By Mark Cronin
BRISBANE — A trial date of May 12 has been set by the Brisbane Magistrates Court for 17 activists arrested at Canungra Land Warfare Centre on December 7, the 22nd anniversary of the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.
All 17 entered a plea of not guilty at their hearing on January 23. One of the activists, Jim Dowling, initially refused to recognise the authority of the court or to enter any plea, maintaining that, "It's the Australian government on trial here".
The protest at Canungra, in Queensland's Gold Coast hinterland, was called to oppose the training of Indonesian troops there, training which aids the Indonesian military in its repression of the Indonesian, East Timorese and West Papuan peoples. The action attracted around 150 protesters, most from Brisbane and northern NSW.
Other protests were held on that day around the country, including a gathering of about 30 at Richmond Airforce Base near Sydney, where Indonesian military are also trained.
Nineteen arrests were made at Canungra on December 7 after activists entered the base to present pamphlets originally drafted by the Australian Defence Forces in World War II for distribution among the people of East Timor. The pamphlets were headed "Your friends will not forget you". A plaque was also carried on to the base to replace the military crests of the Indonesian armed forces which are mounted on the walls of the centre.
Those arrested first appeared in the Beaudesert Magistrates Court on January 9. Two of the activists, Louise Hardman and Bruce Taylor, from northern NSW, pleaded guilty because of the difficulties they faced travelling to Brisbane for a trial date. Both nevertheless voiced their opposition to the training of Indonesian troops. "I see myself as representing all Australians", Hardman said. "I think all Australians are against this." No conviction was recorded for either activist.
The 17 who await trial in May are Jim Dowling, Katie Dowling, Sherelle Dolphin, John Filimino, Terry Fisher, Laurel Grant, Drew Hutton, Father Peter Kennedy, John Klystra, Damien Le Goullen, Professor Noel Preston, Amelia Salmon, Rebecca Smith, Bob Borsellino, Mark Cronin and one other who has asked that his name be suppressed for fear of endangering his family in East Timor.