Terror laws \'on trial\'

April 19, 2008

On April 15, 200 people attended a public meeting entitled "Putting the terror laws on trial" at the Kaleide Theatre, RMIT. The meeting was jointly sponsored by the Civil Rights Defence campaign group and Amnesty International.

Pratheepan Balasubramaniam, representing the Australian Tamil Rights Advocacy Council, explained the situation facing three Australian citizens of Sri Lankan Tamil origin who have been charged under the "anti-terror" laws with being members of, and raising money for, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an organisation fighting for self-determination for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

David McLeod, a lawyer representing former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, said that he believed the legality of Hick's guilty plea at his trial on the US naval-base prison could be challenged under Australian law.

Peter Russo, a lawyer representing Gold Coast doctor Mohammed Haneef, spoke about the forthcoming judicial inquiry into his client's deportation to India last year, after he was arrested in Brisbane on terrorism charges, released by a magistrate for lack of evidence and then put in immigration detention by the Howard government.

Russo said that a major problem with the inquiry is that it does not have the power to compel witnesses, such as Australian Federal Police officers or former immigration minister Kevin Andrews, to answer questions. He argued that it is essential that Andrews and AFP commissioner Mick Keelty be questioned about their role in the affair.

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