Jury members weep over Pine Gap guilty verdict

After five hours deliberation, a "visibly distressed" NT Supreme Court jury has found four protesters guilty of 14 charges over a protest at the involvement of the Pine Gap spy base in the Iraq war.

The Australian reports that Christian activists Donna Mulhearn, 37, Jim Dowling, 50, Adele Goldie, 29, and Bryan Law, 51, were found guilty of a total of 14 charges, including trespassing in a prohibited area, damaging Commonwealth property and taking unlawful photographs of a defence site.

The court found that the four members of the protest group Christians Against All Terrorism broke into the spy base in the early hours of 9 December 2005, by cutting through the mesh wire fence with bolt cutters.

The group will be sentenced today. They face a maximum jail term of seven years or a maximum fine of $46,200 under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act.

It is the first time the Act has been used to prosecute someone for breaking into Pine Gap.

Justice Sally Thomas expressed reservations over the law's severity. She said that "hundreds of cases" of people have been dealt with in the lower courts for similar offences.

"It's a big step up from a relatively minor thing dealt with in the Magistrates Court to this," she said.

"They are facing serious charges carrying lengthy jail terms, while hundreds of people have been dealt with in the Magistrates Court."

However, Crown Prosecutor Hilton Dembo said that the case was the first time intruders had reached the technical support area of the base, and said the case was exceptional in its nature.

"They are serious offences striking at the heart of the national security and the national interest," he said.

"Both the Commonwealth director-general (of security) and the attorney general at the highest level have considered the seriousness of the case."

Jury "visibly distressed", defendant says

The Pine Gap Trial Blog reports that the jury members were visibly distressed when delivering the verdict.

According to the blog, the guilty verdict "should have been a clear cut decision, with full admissions by the four and no legal defence available to them".

In a message to her supporters, defendant Ms Mulhearn said that "the jury took five hours to deliberate on what was essentially a clear cut case for them, so obviously there was some debate amongst them.

"A barrister told me it should have taken half an hour.

"Several (jury members) were visibly distressed when the verdict was read and looked as though they had been crying," says Ms Mulhearn.

The former Iraq "human shield" and Maitland-Newcastle Catholic said the group's goal was to unmask Pine Gap's role in the Iraq war, and "we achieved it."

One of the four convicted, Mr Law, did not ask for leniency in his sentence submission, telling Justice Thomas that he "is prepared for a custodial sentence."

"I ask that Your Honour does not grant a suspended sentence", he said.

"That would be cruel. I would not be able to abide by its conditions and we would just end up in court again.

"Lay it on me Your Honour, and I'll serve it out."

His colleague, Mr Dowling, said he did not want to go to jail and invited Justice Thomas to "join the resistance, the side that's fighting for human rights."

He extended an invitation to Justice Thomas to "join resistance to the war and not give us any penalty".

Ms Goldie responded to the Crown's call for jail time: "I don't particularly want to go to jail, but I stand by my principles".

Four found guilty over Pine Gap break-in (The Australian, 15/6/07)
Pine Gap Trial blog
Four Christian pacifists guilty over Pine Gap break-in (ABC News, 14/6/07)

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

Judge rejects house arrest for protesters (CathNews, 30/5/07)
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)
Catholic peace activist faces 10 years jail in Ireland (CathNews, 6/7/06)
Christian protesters hampered by "secrecy" (CathNews, 20/4/06)
Catholic peacemaker receives ASIO treatment (CathNews 8/2/06)
Actor Martin Sheen supports Australian Catholic peace activist (CathNews 27/5/03)
Catholic activist challenges peace movement (CathNews 2/5/06)

15 Jun 2007