Jack Thomas trial exposes terror law dangers

Friday, April 13, 2007

Preliminary arguments have started in the retrial of Jack Thomas at the Supreme Court. The case demonstrates that the Howard government's "anti-terror" laws can be used to criminalise non-terrorists.

Thomas was cleared of having any terrorist intentions at his previous trial. Yet he is still being pursued under an "anti-terror" law that makes it a criminal offence to receive money from a terrorist organisation regardless of the intentions of the person receiving the money. Thomas vigorously contests that he did, in fact, receive any money from terrorists. But if the new jury finds that he did, the fact that he did not receive the money with intentions of using it for terrorist purposes will make no difference.

Thomas, who is no danger to anyone, is being made out to be a criminal by a government and security agencies eager to use him for their own deceitful political ends. The Howard government wants to promote its "tough on security" policy. Shamefully the Kevin Rudd-led Labor opposition wants to likewise, and is also ready to sacrifice Thomas.

The security agencies benefit by obtaining prosecutions. But, their approach is all about the manipulation of public perception. It is not about protecting Australia from real threats.

The disastrous treatment meted out to David Hicks has made Australians a lot more suspicious about the government's demonisation of supposed "terrorists". By reminding people that a jury has already said Thomas is not a terrorist, we can generate disquiet that this is still being pursued under so-called "anti-terror" laws.

Thomas's victimisation by the government throws doubt over the raft of "anti-terror" laws, and the way they are being misused now for political purposes and, in the future, may be used to suppress dissent.

Issue