Large meeting backs Anderson appeal

Issue 

By Steve Painter

SYDNEY — "I hope that if Tim is not released on this appeal, that you get up and get back at it again — and let them know that before the appeal", Paul Hill advised a large public meeting at Glebe Town Hall on April 23.

Hill, released after 15 years' wrongful imprisonment in Britain, told the 600-strong gathering he had little respect for appeals courts, and that supporters of Anderson should neither rely on a favourable verdict nor be discouraged by an unfavourable one.

Anderson was imprisoned last year over the 1978 bombing of the Sydney Hilton. He will begin his appeal on May 13, on up to 16 grounds, including incorrect instructions by the judge to the trial jury.

"Those who administer and dispense justice in NSW should know that they are accountable, they are under scrutiny, and they'd better do it right", said Jane Musset of the Campaign Exposing the Frame-up of Tim Anderson (CEFTA), calling for a large turnout of Anderson's supporters at the Queen St Court of Criminal Appeals on May 13. The court can hold around 400 observers.

Hill described Anderson's conviction as farcical, depending as it did on the evidence of Raymond Denning, a prisoner hoping for a reduction of his sentence [he received it on April 26], and Evan Pederick, whose sanity has been questioned.

Hill was one of the Guildford Four, imprisoned in 1974 on charges of bombing several hotels frequented by British soldiers in Guildford and Woolwich. Police knew of their innocence two years after they were imprisoned, yet the four spent another 13 years in jail.

An IRA unit captured in the mid-'70s had confessed to the Guildford and Woolwich bombings and revealed details that only the bombers could have known. Police suppressed these confessions to conceal their wrongdoing in the Guildford case.

At the time of his arrest, Hill said, he was interrogated for up to 22 hours at a stretch, stripped naked, beaten, handcuffed, threatened with firearms and subjected to threats against his family.

High-ranking police were involved in these activities. One, who was present when a gun was forced into Hill's mouth, later became commissioner of the London metropolitan police.

Hill stressed the importance of public campaigns in such cases: "If it had not been for campaigners, I would still be languishing in prison, the Birmingham Six would still be languishing in prison.

"My own campaign was initiated by an aunt and uncle. They realised at t internally in Britain they would not get media exposure because the media had played a very large part in our sentencing in the first place.

"So they compiled information dossiers, which they took to every embassy in London. They went to America, they campaigned in Canada, they campaigned in Europe.

"Their telephone was tapped, they had very overt surveillance, they were visited at their places of work, their mail was opened, their children were harassed in the street, they had obscene mail, their home was attacked, their car was interfered with." But they kept fighting, and in the end they prevailed.

Also speaking was Paul Wilson, assistant director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. He said miscarriages of justice occur regularly. He had published a study of 20 cases involving serious crimes.

"The Chamberlain case is easily the most publicised example in this country of a miscarriage of justice, but what I think the community generally doesn't realise is that there are lots, lots more", he said.

NSW shadow attorney-general Paul Whelan also supported the campaign to free Anderson: "We now have a system where not only convicted criminals, but convicted criminals with a history of giving perjured evidence, are called upon as reliable witnesses in cases where a conviction is wanted."

Whelan pointed out that legislation now before the NSW parliament could encourage further injustices, as it would offer more financial rewards and perhaps reduced sentences to prison informers.

Jane Musset told the meeting 300 academics around Australia had protested against Tim Anderson's conviction, and almost 40 very prominent Australians had supported Anderson's bail application. More than 30 had offered to put up $1000 each for his bail.

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