Contributed by Adam Carlton
Tomothy Webb, Andrew Paine, Margarert Petrorius and James Dowling have fronted up in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, to face charges of entering a prohibited area and filming within, namely the top secret Pine Gap military communications facility near Alice Springs.
They face a maximum of 7 years jail if found guilty.
All admit jumping the 1.2 metre perimeter fence and entering the facility on 29 September 2016. But they had a right to do so under the circumstances.
Among other tasks, Pine Gap is used to communicate massages to operate drone strikes in in US led wars in the Middle East. The base plays an important part in these actions and that the victims are mostly innocent civilians.
As Christians, the accused believe they had a duty to act.
Speaking in her own defence, Margaret Pestorious said that they had hoped to disrupt activities.
“There’s a direct link to Pine Gap, because the signals come through Pine Gap and then directly out to US officers who direct drone strikes against real people,” she told the court.
“We went there to try to stop that information from getting from ‘A’, to ‘B’ to ‘C’, which is some poor villager.
“That week there was a drone strike which killed 15 people, 14 of which were not insurgents.
“Australia is involved in the real-time sending of signals that result in killing.”
She said that sources reveal there are up to three drone strikes a day.
That the protest was carried out to defend others and that this should be considered a justifiable defence.
Professor Richard Tanter, from the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, has written extensively about the secretive base and was called as a witness by the accused.
He told the court Pine Gap was “perhaps the most important US intelligence facility outside the US”.
The accused are part of a broader movement that has the aim of closing Pine Gap. Assisting drone attacks is one of its activities. It is also much more widely linked into the overall American military system.
This is not an Australian facility, but one under American command. It is questionable whether the existence of foreign bases on Australian soil is really in Australia’s interests. These interests are rooted in acting as a responsible global citizen working for peace. Nor is it safe to have military activities being directed from Australia, without Australian control.
The case continues.