Pine Gap 6 – The Peace Pilgrims facing court

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On Sep 29 2016, six “Peace Pilgrims” were arrested next to the Pine Gap Military base which is a key US military facility providing support for violent operations, drone strikes and the massive spy program revealed by Edward Snowden.

We were lamenting war and praying for peace and now we need your help and support:

  1. Join the Wage Peace Newsletter for updates, invitation to actions, call outs and Court dates. Share this information with your friends and networks.
  2. Donate to help us travel back and forth to Alice Springs as well as general costs in fighting this case. We would like to see people join us.
  3. Join us in Alice for the major case later in the year.
  4. If you are in Alice – support us by encouraging local involvement and making links. Contact Margaret@cairnspeacebypeace.org

#Endwarculture #NoMoreUSwars

Brandis Pestorius When the six “Peace Pilgrims” faced court in Alice Springs, the charges were thrown out of court and the protesters freed because of what Local Court Judge Daynor Trigg called a “nonsense” piece of legislation.  The law required direction from Attorney General George Brandis to arrest and lay charges. The six, have now been charged following explicit signed consent from Mr Brandis (see picture left).

Jim Dowling, Andy Paine, Tim Webb and Franz Dowling of Brisbane, along with Margaret Pestorius and Paul Christie of Cairns, are each charged with ‘Unlawful Entry’ under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cth). They face seven years in prison for these acts of faith, prayer and healing.

COURT HEARINGS

Two court hearings with community actions will occur later in the year at dates to be specified:  a mention in April; then maybe in September or October, an “evidence hearing” where the scope of the case is negotiated; then, toward the end of the year a jury court hearing in the Supreme Court in Alice.

And then… who knows, maybe an appeal too in the Darwin Appeal Court.

Sign up here for notification of the dates of the case

The peace pilgrims say they intend to put the Pine Gap base on trial. Defendant Andy Paine said “Pine Gap is a foreign military installation on Australian soil that is vital to the US surveillance state and is used to target drone strikes that kill civilians in foreign countries. Its actions should be a topic of debate among all Australians. Instead the base operates in virtual secrecy; hidden in the desert with no government accountability and extreme laws threatening anyone who dares to show what goes on there.”

Five of the “peace pilgrims” walked on to Pine Gap on September 29 last year; carrying musical instruments and conducting a lament for the deaths and suffering caused by Pine Gap. Pauli Christie entered alone on the October 1 with ceremonial objects and prayed for several hours in the creek bed not far from the main fence.

PINE GAP 4 (2005 – 2008)

One of the six, Jim Dowling, had previously entered Pine Gap in 2005 in a sensational case that ended with convictions overturned on appeal. This is the only previous instance of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act being used to prosecute people. 

Pine Gap 4 with Ron Merkel
`The Pine Gap 4 in 2008 with Lawyers Russell Goldflam and Ron Merkel QC

At the appeal Ron Merkel successfully argued that the original Judge erred in not requiring the prosecution to prove that Pine Gap was necessary for the defence of Australia, as requested by the defendants. All convictions under the defence Special Undertakings act were then overturned. The defendants had already spent up to eight days in Darwin prison when this decision was handed down.

Later that year, the Government changed the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cth), to clarify the legal status of Pine Gap and make a challenge to its status as a “defence” facility like the one mounted by the Pine Gap 4 harder to mount. The amendments mean that the Commonwealth claims it has power to legislate about Pine Gap under both the ‘defence power‘ and the ‘external affairs power‘ of the Australian Constitution.

This may be seen as an attempt to limit the ability to question US activities on Australian soil by activists and academics concerned about the illegality and immorality of such a dominating war-making and surveillance facility. {see more complex detail here about the changes to the law.}

Many believe that if the government declared Pine Gap necessary for the defence of Australia then it probably is! (Even if we are bombing people thousands of miles away who have never even heard of Australia).

The silence and complicity of Pine Gap in breaking International Law and human rights agreements has been raised by such eminent public figures and academics as Malcolm Fraser former Prime Minister of Australia and  Richard Tanter of the Nautilus Institute. The protesters are not alone in their concerns about the practices engaged in Pine Gap.

Ms Pestorius said, “We have seen escalating war for 16 years – some would say 60 years. The US economy is based around it. And Australia is chronically implicated. We can see no end.”

Mr Paine said, “With the unpredictability of a Donald Trump presidency hanging in the air and the US-Australia relationship already strained this week, we need to consider the consequences of our government’s unswerving loyalty to the US in military affairs. To do this and to bring what is done in secret out into the open is why we walked on to Pine Gap in the first place; this trial presents an opportunity for us to publicly do that again.”

There is considerable agreement that Pine Gap would be a nuclear target in the case of nuclear war.


 


LINKS and History of Pine Gap activism 

https://closepinegap.org/media/

Bryan Law’s blog tracking the 2007 Pine Gap court case 

Background to the ammendments of the act 2008

Media from court appeal around Pine Gap Action in 2008

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-06-25/pine-gap-appeal/80064

Media coverage sept 2016 after the second action where the pilgrims made it into Pine Gap and were arrested. 

Media release from first attempt at getting into Pine Gap (Graeme attempted this night, but did not take part in the final action). All pilgrims were caught and arrested before breaking in to Pine Gap but were released without charge. 

See also the Bryan Law Archive  with Pine Gap Tag


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MEDIA RELEASE 21 February 2017

AG George Brandis signs direction for Peace Pilgrims to be charged 

The six “peace pilgrims” who last September were arrested on the Pine Gap US military intelligence base have now received court summons – each facing up to seven years imprisonment.

Jim Dowling, Andy Paine, Tim Webb and Franz Dowling of Brisbane; along with Margaret Pestorius and Paul Christie of Cairns; are each charged with Trespass under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act.

The Act was the subject of confusion and controversy in September when the six defendants were arrested. As well as carrying the extremely severe maximum penalty of seven years prison, the law also requires the expressed consent of the federal attorney-general to be used – causing the charges to be dropped and judge Daynor Trigg to describe the legislation as “a bit of nonsense.”

The peace pilgrims say they intend to put the Pine Gap base on trial. Defendant Andy Paine said “Pine Gap is a foreign military installation on Australian soil that is vital to the US surveillance state and is used to target drone strikes that kill civilians in foreign countries. Its actions should be a topic of debate among all Australians. Instead the base operates in virtual secrecy; hidden in the desert with no government accountability and extreme laws threatening anyone who dares to show what goes on there.”

Mr Paine said “with the unpredictability of a Donald Trump presidency hanging in the air and the US-Australia relationship already strained this week, we need to consider the consequences of our government’s unswerving loyalty to the US in military affairs. To do this and to bring what is done in secret out into the open is why we walked onto Pine Gap in the first place; this trial presents an opportunity for us to publicly do that again.”

The “peace pilgrims” walked on to Pine Gap on September 28 last year; carrying musical instruments and conducting a lament for the deaths and suffering caused by Pine Gap. One of the six Jim Dowling had previously entered Pine Gap in 2005 in a sensational case that ended with convictions overturned on appeal. This is the only previous instance of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act being used.

The first court appearance will be in Alice Springs on February 21st.

Media contact: Andy Paine 0413205154

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Peace Pilgrims case was heard and adjourned on February 22 to be heard for mention in April.

The ABC covered the adjournment here!

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