Jack Thomas case a threat to civil liberties

April 6, 2005

Ben Courtice

MELBOURNE — Les Thomas, brother of Melbourne resident Jack Thomas who is charged with terrorist offences, told the media on April 1 that his brother's case demonstrates the current threats to civil liberties. He particularly singled out the use of evidence obtained under duress or torture, and evidence from interviews conducted without access to a lawyer.

At the end of his seven-day committal hearing, Jack Thomas was released on bail until his Supreme Court trial begins on June 28. The prosecution's case against him relies almost entirely on an interview conducted with him by the Australian Federal Police while he was detained in Pakistan. Thomas requested a lawyer and told the AFP he had been tortured, but was not allowed to have a lawyer present during the questioning.

The prosecution alleges that Thomas is a "sleeper cell" agent who has agreed to provide al Qaeda with information about Australian military facilities. The government prosecutor argued that the fact Thomas lived under surveillance between returning to Australia in June 2003 and his arrest in November 2004 and did nothing untoward in that time is no proof of his innocence — because this is what would be expected of a member of a "sleeper cell".

The magistrate Lisa Hannan dismissed several matters in the prosecution case as not substantial enough to go to trial — allegations relating to a plan to break prisoners out of the US jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; hearing of plans to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf; and "moral support" to al Qaeda members in safe houses in Pakistan.

Even on the remaining charges, Hannan agreed with defence lawyers that the crown had a "less than an overwhelming" case against Thomas, given the nature of the evidence the prosecution is relying upon.

Despite the apparently weak nature of its case, the crown pressed for Thomas to be remanded again in solitary confinement while awaiting trial.

The Justice for Jack campaign, which is publicising the political issues involved in the case and fund-raising to help cover Thomas' legal costs, will be screening the documentary The President vs David Hicks at 7pm on April 26 at RMIT's Kaleide Theatre. Tickets are available from the New International Bookshop. For further campaign information visit <http://www.justice4jack.com>.

From Green Left Weekly, April 6, 2005.
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