Pine Gap trial resorts to Cold-War law

Issue 

The trial of four activists who inspected the top secret US-Australia spy base at Pine Gap for terrorist activity began on October 4. Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Bryan Law (Cairns) and Donna Mulhearn, members of Christians Against ALL Terrorism (CAAT), face charges under the Commonwealth Crimes Act and the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act (DSU) 1952. If found guilty they face seven years' prison.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock set a legal and political precedent by granting the Commonwealth permission to invoke the Cold War-era DSU law. Retired federal court judge Ron Merkel QC, who is heading a legal team for the four, will question the Commonwealth's right to use the act.

On October 5, CAAT members returned to court to fight a suppression order placed on them, as well as to pursue a discovery order to gain information that the Crown is not providing.

Goldie, Law and Mulhearn have pled not guilty, and Dowling has pled neither guilty nor not guilty because he does not recognise the court's right to try him. Wearing a T-shirt bearing a picture of a dead Iraqi girl and the words "Liberated Iraq", he declared that his action was designed to bring the government to account for war crimes and accorded with the Nuremberg Principles.

Defence barrister Rowena Orr said that DSU limits the fundamental right of freedom of movement and therefore its application must be carefully considered. Orr said the DSU required the government to prove that Pine Gap defends Australia's interests against external aggression and if it cannot the defendants should be acquitted.

But on October 12, Justice Thomas of the NT Supreme Court ruled that it is enough for a minister to say that the base is necessary for the defence of Australia without having to prove why. In response, Mulhearn said that it is "the right of the community to place Pine Gap and its activities under scrutiny. This Cold War-era act is designed to deter criticism or public examination of Pine Gap and other US defence installations. All Australians should be concerned that our right to know what goes on for the 'defence' of Australia is being withheld from them."

The inspection of Pine Gap took place in December 2005 yet it wasn't until September 14 that a suppression order was served on each CAAT member. On October 5, those packing out the public gallery of Alice Springs Court House, including Australian Federal Police officers, were asked to leave so that the order could be given in a closed court.

Meanwhile, the protests at Pine Gap are continuing. On October 6, 35 people sat on the road near Pine Gap and wove wool around themselves, a police vehicle and two warning signs, blocking access to the base.

The four-hour demonstration involved reading the names of Iraqis who have died as a result of rockets aimed from Pine Gap. Men, women and children, along with soldiers, contractors and journalists from various countries, had their names placed on a 4-metre wooden cross erected outside the Pine Gap gates. A group of children then walked to the front gates and offered flowers to the security guards. They were met with blank stares.

The citizens' inspection team then re-named the defence facility "Pine Gap Terror Base" and hung a banner stating, in part: "In proud subservience to the USA. Civilians bombed while U wait — back into the Stone Age". Irish-Australian activist Ciaron O'Reilly, who was recently acquitted by an Irish jury of disabling a US military plane, causing $2.5 million in damage, addressed the gathering.

At 6pm the police cut the wool and threatened to charge with loitering everyone who didn't leave. Five people remained on the road singing. Tracey Makamae, Sam Lard, Edward Cranswick, Jamie Ford and Carl Johnston were arrested.

Makamae said she is sick of the government's lies about the use of Pine Gap. Cranswick, a former US government employee, said he acted to preserve the US of Martin Luther King, Lincoln and Jefferson, not "Bush insanity".

The trial continues. For more information, visit <http://www.pinegap6.org>.