Contributed by Jim Hayes
As the story unfolds, the latest “terror” arrests in Sydney shows signs of turning into farce.
Whether the accused are guilty of a plot to put a bomb on a plane or not remains to be seen. If there is credible evidence, they must be dealt with appropriately.
But the hype around it has been short on facts. Already, one of the arrested, Abdul Merhi, has had to be released, without charge and may be taking legal recourse for compensation against the damage caused by the way he has been treated.
None of the those who have been arrested has been charged with any crime so far. But they are being held and interrogated, under a law that violates the normal practice that one cannot continue to be held without charge. The way the case has been handled also violates the principle one is innocent until proven guilty.
When there is a credible case in relation to a horrific crime, those alleged to have taken part, should be charged with specific crimes and brought to trial as soon as possible. But in no way should this justify abuse of the process, as has occurred in this case.
If the evidence had been in the hands of the police, these men would have been charged without haste. Evidence does not appear to be at hand and if this is the case, those in detention should be released and the investigation continue.
Instead of this, there has been resort to trial by media. .
This means that the defendants are found guilty, not by the presentation of the facts in a court room, but by means of innuendo, allegation, association, views and created public prejudice. When and if it goes to court, the chances of a fair hearing will have been compromised and the potential for the innocent to be punished has been raised.
The defendants will enter the court room, already deemed guilty and will most likely be convicted, unless they can demolish the prosecution case completely, not just cause reasonable doubt. It overturns the normal concept of justice.
Just how far we have gone down the road to trial by lynch mob is shown, by the extent of acceptance of this treatment and the profiling of a section of the Australian community.
The fact is that this is an investigation at this stage and not a case seems to have been lost on those who should know better.
It is wrong for names and even addresses of those detained to have been public and it is damning on the media that has taken part in this and colluded in setting a precedent that legitimises this sort of treatment being used on anyone. By doing so, this media has damaged the right of all Australians to a fair go.