Christian protesters hampered by "secrecy"

Catholic "human shield" Donna Mulhearn and two other Christian peace protesters claim "operational secrecy" is hindering their efforts to defend themselves against charges of breaking into a top secret US-Australian spy base.

Donna Mulhearn, 37, Jim Dowling, 50, Adele Goldie, 29, and Bryan Law, 51, are facing a committal hearing in Alice Springs Magistrates Court, charged with breaking into the Pine Gap, a spy base located about 20 km of Alice Springs.

The Courier Mail reports the four were charged under the Defence Special Undertakings Act with entering a prohibited area and taking photos on 9 December last year.

The group, which styles itself "Christians Against All Terrorism", fronted the hearing wearing jackets and overalls saying "Citizens Inspection Team".

Mulhearn, a well-known Catholic pacifist from Maitland, is a former "human shield" who was abducted and briefly held by militants in the Iraqi flashpoint city of Fallujah last year.

The group said it was conducting a citizens inspection in protest at the facility's involvement in the ongoing war in Iraq.

They said they would rely on the defence "of necessity", which says private citizens can take illegal action when there is an extraordinary emergency threatening them.

Representing themselves, the members claimed that the fact they had gained access to the site showed the Australian Federal Police protecting the base were unable to protect Australia from a terrorist threat.

In court, the group tried to extract information about buildings at Pine Gap, 20km from Alice Springs. But the protesters were told repeatedly that most things about the base were "classified".

Among those quizzed by the four about the role of Pine Gap in the targeting of missiles in Iraq was the deputy chief of the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility, Michael Burgess, the top Australian official at the base.

All four protesters are charged with criminal damage and entering a prohibited area. The charges carry jail terms of up to seven years and their use had to be decided by Attorney General Phillip Ruddock.

Law said the group was the first to ever be charged under the Defence Special Undertakings Act and had been kept in suspense for four months.

Law, a father of one, and Dowling, a father of seven, said they expected custodial sentences if the case went to trial and they were found guilty.

The committal hearing is expected to last two days.

Protesters hampered by 'secrecy' (The Courier Mail 20/4/06)
Christians face charges over break-in (The Mercury/Northern Territory News 18/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Conversation: Donna Mulhearn, human shield and crusader for kids - Back to Iraq with 'lots of love, hugs and care' (Catholic Weekly 2/11/03)

Editorial: Let the nuclear debate begin (The Tablet 15/4/06)
London priest in court over peace demonstration (Independent Catholic News 12/4/06)
Vatican paper condemns killing of children in combat (Catholic World News 11/4/06)
Scottish Bishops issue statement on Trident (Independent Catholic News 11/4/06)
Blessed peacemakers (The Tablet 1/4/06)
Christian report urges low consumption, non-nuclear energy strategy (Independent Catholic News 27/3/06)
CPT hostages - dispelling the myths (Independent Catholic News 27/3/06)

20 Apr 2006