Govt to appeal "inadequate" Pine Gap fines

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has lodged an appeal against a "manifestly inadequate" fine imposed on Pine Gap Four protestors by the NT Supreme Court and is seeking a custodial sentence.

The four Christian pacifists - Bryan Law of Cairns, Jim Dowling of Dayboro, Adele Goldie of Brisbane and Donna Mulhearn of Sydney - were found guilty in June of breaching the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952.

However, Justice Sally Thomas handed them minor fines after an intense three-week trial, despite the prosecution's request for imprisonment.

The Federal Government says that a fine of any kind is "manifestly inadequate" in this case, and has launched an appeal seeking custodial sentences for the non-violent activists.

On 9 December 2005 under the banner "Christians Against ALL Terrorism", the four were arrested after breaking into Pine Gap to conduct what they call a "Citizen's Inspection", with the intention of highlighting the base's role in the Iraq war.

"This government is so ashamed of their war crimes, their only response is to lash out as strongly as possible at those who are trying to expose them," Mr Dowling said in response to the charges which carried a sentence of up to seven years.

In sentencing, Justice Thomas noted the activists had behaved non-violently at all times, were genuine in their beliefs, had informed authorities of their intentions in advance, were co-operative, and that their actions did not result in any person suffering loss, injury or trauma.

Justice Thomas also noted that Pine Gap has a significant history of protest and trespass, with previous trespassers being fined.

"It's a big step up to talk about a jail sentence," she said during the trial. "A prison sentence is one of last resort," adding that use of the Defence Act was a serious escalation in proposed punishment.

In lodging their appeal the Director of Public Prosecutions claim that Justice Thomas failed to give proper weight to both general and individual deterrence, and gave the activists too much credit for cooperation.

Crown Prosecutor Mr Hilton Dembo said during the trial the Citizen's Inspection had "struck at the heart of national security".

But the four denies the claim.

"Non-violent action doesn't 'strike at the heart of national security'," said Mr Law, "waging an unjust war and inciting fear, paranoia and hatred is what has struck at the heart of Australia's security over the past five years.

"The Commonwealth government are being vindictive and bloody-minded in pursuing this further," he said.

"We would like to ask Defence Minister Brendan Nelson to explain why his Department is intent on portraying our non-violent action as a threat to national security," said Mr Law.

Government continues heavy handed approach to national security (Pine Gap Four, Media Release, 4/8/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Report 26, An agreement to extend the period of operation of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap (Joint Standing Committee on Treaties)
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

End Mid-East war: Pope's appeal at Assisi (CathNews, 18/6/07)
Jury members weep over Pine Gap guilty verdict (CathNews, 15/6/07)
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)

6 Aug 2007