Trial continues for Christian activists in Pine Gap case

Four Christian activists facing up to seven years jail under defence laws for trespass at the Pine Gap spy base, near Alice Springs, have argued that they should be acquitted unless the government can prove the US-Australian facility defends Australia against external aggression.

The four defendants, Jim Dowling, Bryan Law, Adele Goldie and Ms Mulhearn are charged under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act which carries a maximum of seven years in prison for trespass.

Describing the trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court as a "legal first", one of the accused, Donna Mulhearn, a well-known Catholic pacifist from Maitland, said the trial "challenged the Governments attempts to silence public criticism of US military bases in Australia".

The group conducted what they describe as a "Citizen's Inspection" of Pine Gap military base last year, managing to breach the security of the top-secret facility, scale a building, unfurl banners and take photographs.

Three of the pacifists pleaded not guilty but the fourth, Jim Dowling, wearing a t-shirt depicting a dead Iraqi girl and the words "Liberated Iraq", declared he did not recognise the right of the court to try him and said he neither pleaded guilty or not-guilty.

He explained that his action was in accordance with the Nuremberg Principles in bringing the Government to account for war crimes.

Defence Barrister, Rowena Orr, told the court she believed the Act limits the fundamental right of freedom of movement of its citizens and therefore must be very stringent in its application.

Ms Orr said the act requires the government to prove that Pine Gap defends Australia's interests against external aggression and if it cannot do so, the defendants should be acquitted.

However, prosecuting counsel said that the defendants "simply chose to snub their noses at the law in an act of, err, civil disobedience ... whatever that means."

"This is the sort of mischief that the Act seeks to uncover," he continued. "To allow that mischief would not see justice done."

Supporters of the group from around the country are gathering in Alice Springs this week for a national peace convergence aimed at drawing attention to Pine Gap and its role in the war in Iraq.

Earlier the defendants had formed a procession and walked to the court carrying banners and posters with messages such as "Put Pine Gap on Trial".

The trial continues today with the four returning to court to fight a secret suppression order placed on them, as well as a discovery order to gain information from the Crown that they are not providing.

Christian pacificists challenge Pine Gap (Media Release, 4/10/06)
Four appear in court over alleged Pine Gap break-in (ABC Online News, 3/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pine Gap 6

Christian protesters hampered by "secrecy" (CathNews, 20/4/06)

5 Oct 2006