Federal Police accused of intimidating unionist

Issue 

By Tom Jordan and Allen Myers

CANBERRA — A unionist and peace activist has filed a formal complaint alleging "intimidation and anti-union activities" against two officers of the Australian Federal Police.

Electrical Trades Union member Don Fowler was visited at his home on the morning of January 25 by two detectives from the AFP's major crime branch. Fowler was stunned when they told him they were investigating him for possible complicity in the unsolved murder of AFP assistant commissioner Colin Winchester three years ago.

However, says Fowler, the detectives quickly shifted their questions from the Winchester killing to internal union affairs and personal details about members of the Canberra Trades and Labour Council.

The detectives also showed an interest in two other subjects. One was the operations of British Aerospace at the Tidbinbilla satellite tracking station. Fowler was employed there for 14 months until last September, when he was sacked, he says, because of his complaints about health and safety violations by the company.

The AFP officers also wanted to find out what Fowler knew about a rumour circulating in Canberra concerning the activities of another British company which exhibited at the Aidex arms bazaar in Canberra in November. According to the rumour, the company was quietly offering for sale both poison gases whose sale would violate international law and pills designed to poison water reservoirs.

Fowler gained the impression that the accusation of complicity in the Winchester murder was intended as a form of blackmail to pressure him into providing information on the other topics.

This impression is reinforced by the flimsiness of the detectives' explanation of why Fowler was being investigated. According to the detectives, Fowler had been implicated by an executive of a Victorian firm providing security services for the 1989 and 1991 Aidex exhibitions.

They said the executive had told the AFP in 1991 that during the 1989 Aidex protests he had overheard Fowler "My mate Eastman did a good job on Winchester". The executive allegedly had not been able to identify Fowler for two years, and had learned who he was only recently.

Fowler says that he does not know anyone named Eastman, nor anything about the Winchester murder. He had been at the 1989 Aidex protest for only half an hour.

Moreover, Fowler's picture and name appeared on the front page of the Canberra Times at that time. In 1989, he was clean shaven except for a small moustache; at the time he was "identified" by the executive, he had a full beard.

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