No jail for Pine Gap Four

June 15, 2007

The public gallery of the Northern Territory Supreme Court erupted into applause on June 15 when Justice Sally Thomas handed down the sentences for the "Pine Gap Four" — Christians Against All Terrorism members Bryan Law, Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie and Donna Mulhearn — who had the previous day been found guilty of 14 charges under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act of 1952.

The four conducted a "citizens' inspection" of the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility on December 9, 2005, to spotlight the US spy base's role in the Iraq war. Dowling was fined $1250, Law $1000, Mulhearn $450 and Goldie $550. They have also been asked to contribute $2500 each towards the cost of fence repair at the base.

During the trial, nine barristers and lawyers were present for the prosecution, while the Pine Gap Four were unrepresented. Further, the four were stripped of their defence case when Thomas ruled in favour of the crown's argument that the four's defences — based on sections 10.3, 10.4 and 10.5 of the criminal code, which relate to necessity and self-defence/defence of others — were inadmissible to the jury.

Mulhearn explained: "I was trying to fulfil the promise I had made to the people of Iraq to do something to stop the war ... I went to Pine Gap for a few hours and the base was shutdown and information was not relayed to Iraq and that day no missiles fell."

In her defence Goldie quoted from the Nuremberg principles: "Preparation for war is itself a war crime ... States must never make civilians a target or use weapons that cannot distinguish between civilians and other combatants." Crown Prosecutor Hilton Dembo QC's objection that the Nuremberg principles were "not defences known to law" was upheld by Thomas.

Left with no "legal" case to present, the four's expert witnesses were also prevented from giving evidence on grounds of relevance. When Mulhearn applied to the court for a permanent stay of the trial on the basis that justice would not be done, the judge refused her application.

Near the close of the trial, Mulhearn presented to the jury "hiking boots I wore at Al Shuala marketplace [in Iraq] after it was hit by a missile. There was human flesh on the ground and puddles of blood everywhere. There is blood on my boots, blood from a human being that is there because of a targeting decision from Pine Gap. I'm asking you to honour the memory of this person's blood ... for the sake of the truth, for the sake of your humanity, I'm asking that you find me not guilty."

In summing up, Thomas told the jury that having sympathy for the four activists, or strong feelings about the war in Iraq, or even agreeing that Australians should know more about Pine Gap, was a natural human response. She then directed the jurors to ignore all that and rule only on the legal questions, not according to their conscience.

During the trial, Dembo said he had been instructed to seek a prison sentence to deter "like-minded people". In announcing the non-custodial sentences, Thomas said: "All four were very genuine in the cause they sought to espouse, however their actions — no matter for what cause — cannot justify the breaking of the law."

A statement issued on behalf of the Pine Gap Four said: "We want to thank all our supporters in Alice Springs, across Australia and throughout the world. We renew our commitment to non-violent resistance, which is a powerful way that ordinary people can make a difference in the world.

"We encourage others to take their next step in rising up against war. Join your local peace group, or if you can, support actions challenging the US-Australian war games — Operation Talisman Sabre — that will start next week in Queensland.

"'The choice now is not between violence and non-violence', said Dr Martin Luther King, 'the choice is between non-violence and non-existence'."

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