Four Christian peace activists have publicly challenged the Australian government‚Äôs attempts to silence open criticism of United States military bases in the country in the ‚ÄòPine Gap‚Äô case.
In a legal first, four defendants in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, Jim Dowling, Bryan Law, Adele Goldie and Donna Mulhearn, have been charged with trespass under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 - which carries a maximum of seven years in prison for the offence.
The group conducted a ‚ÄòCitizen‚Äôs Inspection‚Äô of Pine Gap military base in 2005, managing to breach the security of the top-secret facility, scale a building, unfurl banners and take photographs.
Defence barrister Rowena Orr told the court she believed the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act limits the fundamental right of freedom of movement of its citizens and therefore must be very stringent in its application.
Ms Orr said the act requires the government to prove that Pine Gap defends Australia's interests against external aggression and if it cannot do so, the defendants should be acquitted.
The judge reserved her decision and set a further date for mention on Thursday 12 October 2006. The defendants have been fighting a secret suppression order placed on them, as well as a discovery order to gain information from the Crown that they are not providing.
Donna Mulhearn, one of the accused, said the charges are clearly political and reflect the Government's persecution of citizens who challenge their agenda of war.
"This case shows that the level of control they are seeking is excessive, and we must curb the actions of Governments in attempting to control," she said.
"We put an alternative view to the Australian people- super secret American spy bases do not hold the key to Australia's security. Our security lies in building better relationships."
Supporters of the group from around the country gathered in Alice Springs last week for a national peace convergence aimed at drawing attention to Pine Gap and its role in the war in Iraq.
A forum has also been held night with international activist Ciaron O'Reilly, recently acquitted for causing over 2 million US dollars worth of damage to a US military plane at Shannon airport in Ireland.
With thanks to Doug Hynd.