Pine gap protesters’ conviction quashed
Four anti-war protesters who broke into the Pine Gap spy base have had their convictions quashed by a Northern Territory court.
Donna Mulhearn, 39, Tim Dowling, 52, Adele Goldie, 31, and Bryan Law, 52, were the first Australians to be charged under the 1952 Defence (Special Undertaking) Act (DSU Act).
The four protesters – from the Group Christians Against All Terrorism – were found guilty of using bolt cutters on a high security fence and entering the secret spy base near Alice Springs in 2005.
They were convicted last June and together were fined more than $3,000. They had faced a maximum prison sentence of seven years each.
The Commonwealth DPP applied against what it said was the leniency of the sentence while the defendants appealed their convictions.
In the NT court of Criminal Appeal in Darwin on Friday, the full bench unanimously acquitted all four defendants of their conviction under the DSU Act.
Chief Justice Brian Martin said the full bench also declined to order a retrial.
The court will publish its reasons at a later date.
The four are still convicted of minor charges under the criminal code including damaging commonwealth property.
Outside the court, Mr Law said he had been entitled to call evidence during his trial about the role of the defence facility.
He said the commonwealth had tried to punish the protesters for a peaceful “expression of conscience”.
“This court has found that is unjust, a miscarriage of justice and we are within our rights to challenge the existence of Pine Gap,” he told reporters.
“We are completely vindicated and very happy.
“Pine Gap is not a base for the defence of Australia, Pine Gap is an instrument of international aggression.”
Ms Mulhearn said there had been a misuse of the DSU Act.
“It’s a draconian act and it was an extremist move that the act be used against us,” she said.
“It means the federal government will have to look at the Defence (special undertakings) Act and the application it has now for any other activists who want to participate in non-violent civil disobedience at Pine Gap.”
(I must admit I giggled at the ‘Tim Dowling’ bit…)