Reflections on court from the gallery

Some Reflections on the Trial from supporters in the court gallery


Day one:  Tricycles For Peace – Dawn Joyce

Independent filmmaker David Bradbury is now using a pineapple tricycle, a market stall vehicle, to ferry his gear around Rockhampton as he documents the Rocky Tiger Ploughshare trial.

Peacebus activist Graeme Dunstan was in court  yesterday defending his actions to support a symbolic gesture that centres on a garden mattock, a red tricycle, and an attack helicopter.

The prosecution team has an unlimited budget while the defence team of some twenty activists is billeted with local supporters.

In court yesterday, Graeme helped to reduce costs by agreeing that a number of Darwin based prosecution witnesses be heard via audio link.

But let’s go further, Graeme says:  Let’s abandon the purchase of military hardware like these helicopters that cost $40 million each. Then we can fund schools and hospitals both at home and abroad.

The trial continues today.

Dawn Joyce

Day one  – Andrew Paine

Today was day one of Graeme Dunstan’s trial for the disarming of an attack helicopter in 2011 with Bryan Law. There were over 20 supporters made it to Rockhampton to support Graeme, and loads more support pouring in from around the world.

Graeme represented himself after being denied legal aid, but spoke passionately about the reasons for his action – his buddhist faith and lifelong work for peace. He also quoted the biblical prophecy that nations would beat their swords into ploughshares and study war no more, and talked of the history of “ploughshares” actions that have tried to enact it.

The day was taken up by jury selection and prosecution witnesses, there will be several more prosecution witnesses tomorrow and hopefully (if allowed) defence witnesses. Most likely a verdict in the next couple of days.

Four activists also face a mention in court tomorrow morning for a blockade of the barracks gates during the Talisman Saber war games last month.

Day two – Andrew Paine

Day two of Graeme Dunstan’s ploughshares trial in Rockhampton. The day began with the final two prosecution witnesses, then the defence’s case began.

It opened with Graeme Dunstan himself taking the witness stand. He told of his own experiences in the military and his long commitment to peace activism. He then talked about the Talisman Sabre exercises, the US empire and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite objections from the prosecution, the defence was allowed to go into the details of the overseas wars, the “context that makes the facts”.

The other two defence witnesses were allowed to give testimony despite further objections from the prosecution. Reverend Simon Moyle spoke of his experiences in war-affected Afghanistan and the history of the Ploughshares movement.

Donna Mulhearn also spoke of firsthand experiences in a warzone, telling of her time in Iraq where Australian forces decimated cities, and helicopters not just killed thousands of civilians, but inspired constant fear just from their sound. “Helicopters,” she said “are not neutral pieces of equipment.”

The other remarkable moment was when, again despite prosecution objections, the magistrate allowed the “Collateral Murder” video to be shown as evidence. The video, leaked by Bradley Manning, depicts a US Apache helicopter (with the same weapon capabilities as the Euro Tiger helicopter damaged at Rockhampton) gunning down 11 civilians and wounding two children. “Haha look at those dead bastards” says a soldier in one of the more chilling parts of the video.

The video wasn’t even allowed as evidence in Bradley Manning’s trial, so it was a little victory in what was a great day for the defence. Again the courtroom and the footpath in front of the court were packed with supporters, the case was publicised around the world, support actions were staged in Brisbane and Melbourne, and the witnesses spoke powerfully.

Both parties will make their closing statements tomorrow morning, after that the jury will give their verdict.

Day three –   Andrew Paine

Day three of Graeme Dunstan’s ploughshares trial in Rockhampton. A completely nerve-wracking and unpredictable day. The day began with a solidarity action for Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistle blowers being persecuted by governments.

After we entered the court, both parties gave their closing statements. Graeme Dunstan spoke of the cost of the wars, wars he said “were not just against Afghanistan and Iraq, they were against the UN and against civil liberties”. He gave a history of non-violent direct action, from the Quakers in the 17th century to Gandhi’s “satyagraha”, and then gave in great detail, one final time, the story of the action taken by he and Bryan Law. He called upon the conscience of the jury. “Hold fast to the truth,” he said “and the truth will prevail.”

Following this, the prosecution’s closing statement was much shorter. They steered clear of any moral arguments and stuck to the facts, saying the only issue was whether the evidence proved that Graeme Dunstan aided Bryan Law in wilfully damaging commonwealth property.

The judge then summed up the case. He offered no legal defence for Graeme, and reiterated that it was the facts of the evidence that the jury had to consider. The outcome seemed a forgone conclusion.

So it was that at about 11:30, the case was left up to the jury to deliberate the verdict. At lunchtime we were told that they were going to re-examine Graeme’s police interview video. An interesting development. As the afternoon went on there was no word. And then, late in the afternoon, came the announcement that the jury had failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

The court was in shock, including the magistrate and the prosecution. The jury were given more time, but were still unable to reach a verdict and so at half past five, after a long and nervous day, we were all sent home and told to come back tomorrow.

Once again, today the courtroom was full of supporters. There were banners and flags out the front, and people singing of swords being beaten into ploughshares. As the day went on, the belief got stronger that we may just witness what we thought was impossible. Hopefully we will find out tomorrow.

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