Judge rejects house arrest for protesters

The Northern Territory Supreme Court has rejected an application by Federal prosecutors for house arrest to be imposed on bailed Christian protesters who face seven years jail on charges of breaking into the US spy facility at Pine Gap.

Justice Sally Thomas held that the house arrest was "too extreme", according to a statement issued by the Pine Gap Four protesters.

The protesters are facing trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court after doing a "Citizen's Inspection" of Pine Gap US military base in December 2005.

In the first day of proceedings Justice Thomas rejected stringent bail conditions the Crown had requested.

"What you're suggesting," said Justice Thomas during court yesterday, "is essentially home detention ... it seems to be too extreme."

Crown Prosecutor Mr Hilton Dembo QC, made application that the defendants Bryan Law, Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie and Donna Mulhearn remain in the courthouse for 45 minutes after daily court proceedings, then to not leave their places of temporary residence in Alice Springs until court the next morning.

Mr Dembo also requested the defendants not be allowed within 2 km of Pine Gap, citing the importance of "preserving the integrity of the trial".

He further noted that the Pine Gap Four have published notice of intent to hold meetings and processions in Alice Springs and at Pine Gap, saying, "I'm not quite sure what they mean by acts of civil disobedience but you don't have to be violent to cause disruption."

Legal aid barrister, Mr Russell Goldflam, said the intent of these conditions was to deprive the defendants of the right to speak freely about matters of politics.

"Clearly an element of their coming here [to Alice Springs] from distant places is to be involved in political expression," he said.

"It is rare that I get a chance to stand up in court and address constitutional matters, but this is one of those times."

Mr Goldflam went on to note that the defendants have returned to Alice Springs for political reasons several times since the Citizens Inspection in December 2005 and have always conducted themselves with "the utmost respect and transparency".

Justice Thomas agreed that the Crown's requests were indeed "extreme", saying "I don't see the necessity."

Mr Dembo withdrew the request for home detention and the judge rejected the other conditions, setting bail at $1,000.

A trial jury is to be empanelled today and the Crown is expected to present their opening argument after recess at 11.45am. The defendants will be self-represented.

Supporters of the Pine Gap Four will again proceed through Todd St Mall to the courthouse in the morning in a "Celebration and Solidarity" parade.

Pine Gap protest hits Brisbane (Brisbane Times, 29/5/07)
Pine Gap (Media Release, 29/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Peace on Earth (Webdiary)
Pine Gap 6
Australian Story: In Harm's Way
Conversation with Donna Mulhearn (Catholic Weekly 2/11/03)
Donna Mulhearn Pilgrim and Storyteller
Catholic Worker Movement

Christian activist accuses Govt over security bungle (CathNews, 20/5/07)
World "sleepwalking" towards nuclear terrorism (CathNews, 9/10/06)
Trial continues for Christian activists in Pine Gap case (CathNews, 5/10/06)
$A60 billion new UK missiles "absurd": Scottish Cardinal (CathNews, 21/9/06)
Christian protesters hampered by "secrecy" (CathNews, 20/4/06)

30 May 2007