Archive for June, 2012

Margaret’s Verdict

June 22nd, 2012
Supporting Margaret Pestorius
The occasion of Margaret’s recent court hearing was a whirlwind of action and directed thinking.  I watched in awe as Margaret organised material, evaluated evidence, invited network participation, and considered a range of responses and arguments.  Then she had a go.

Margaret and her "McKenzie friend" Kate outside the court-house, ready for business.

 

We made a road-trip to Rockhampton for Margaret’s day in Court.  We caught up with a handful of Rocky locals.  The Court hearing triggered a range of stories across local media, and most of the journalists were switched on to Margaret’s view of this charge as an act of harassment.

Margaret and supporters make a little show before court.

 

The highlight of the hearing was testimony by press photographer Chris Ison.  Chris is the senior photographer with the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.

Margaret asked him if he regularly took photographs of “defence installations” as part of his work, and if he took those photographs without ADF permission.  The prosecutor leapt to his feet and asked the Magistrate to warn Mr Ison that he might incriminate himself in his answer, and was under no obligation to do so.

Chris Ison is a pretty straight arrow, and confident of his own skills and values.  He responded that he was happy to answer the questions.  He said that he believed he had a right to take news photos.  If such photos included defence installation, so be it.  He strongly believed he was within his right, and saw no reason for apology or fear.

Chris Ison's unauthorised pic from Rockhampton airport (say no more)

 

And there it was.  Behaviour which is acceptable to the ADF when carried out by a press photographer is not acceptable when carried out by a peace activist.

Even the prosecutor ran out of questions after confirming there was no permission for two particular photos that otherwise breached s82 of the Defence Act.

The Magistrate was moved to ask his own question: “Mr Ison, have you ever been invited onto ADF land before by the ADF to take photos?”  “Yes”.  The Magistrate and Prosecutor colluded to use this answer to exculpate Mr Ison from criminal liability – using the exact same arguments they refused to allow for Margaret.

The offending picture. The road is a "field work" within the meaning of s82 of the Defence Act 1903

The Magistrate convicted Margaret.  The road in the photographs was a field-work within the definition of s82.  Margaret was trespassing on the facility without authorisation.  While the camera may have been taken onto the land for other reasons (shrine, recording blockades) there is a technical definition of “intent” for this charge – including that if the offending behaviour is a logical and foreseeable outcome of the conduct engaged in.  Photograph a blockade… photograph a road.  Done.

“Chris Ison is an entirely different matter”.  According to the Magistrate, Mr Ison might have considered that any earlier invitation to attend and take photos to be an open and permanent invitation to do the same thing, and therefore he had a defence of implied authority.

And Margaret didn’t (even though she claimed she did) because…. Well, just because.  The maximum fine was imposed ($100) and costs ($4,886).  The Crown kept the camera and memory card ($130).

Margaret’s kind of disappointed in that outcome.  The costs hurt.  They’re meant to.

Greg, Cameron, Jim, Chris

All future pilgrims are likely to lose any camera equipment, and cop another hunnert in fines.  (while thinking laterally to get pix out)

I reckon it’s all valuable experience.  Margaret moved on her beliefs.  Her actions connected with two things I now believe are essential to effective peace-making:

 

Margaret’s tenacity reveals the spirit at work.

Margaret first came to TS09 at my encouragement.  While there she joined in with Jessica Morrison, Simon Moyle, and Jarrod McKenna as the Bonhoeffer 4 (which built on Jessica and Simon’s trespass initiative of TS07).  Margaret came away from that experience deeply affected by the events that unfolded during the trespass.  The Spirit moved.  Joining in prayer with a US Marine, remembering the dead in wilderness, stayed with Margaret.

It slowly became part of the Shoalwater Wilderness Pilgrimage which Margaret advocated for, and eventually got to taste in 2011.  Margaret got a small but nourishing piece of the high-minded, spiritual and reflective action she envisaged.

A shrine to the blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter, established on 20 June 2011 in the Shoalwater bay military training area.

 

The bogus ADF complaint gave Margaret the chance to show herself and the pilgrimage project in more detail to the powers and interested parties in Rockhampton.  Chris and Cameron from the Dead Fish Society (East St Have-a-chat) paid attention.  Jim Dowling and Greg from the Catholic Worker house in Brisbane came up in support.  The shrine to Franz Jaegerstaetter got a little time in the sun.

What was revealed for all to see is the benevolence of Margaret’s intentions, and the petty minded vindictive nature of ADF command…..  the way police and justice system serve  base purpose so readily.  The beak had to warn a respected journalist…. and convict a good-hearted woman.  Truth was on show.

 

Principled action builds our knowledge, skill and capacity.

 

It makes my heart sing to see Margaret get her teeth into the justice system, and build her skills in Court.

There’s a respected tradition of pleading guilty to civil disobedience actions.  The Court is then used as an opportunity to explain the circumstances behind the action, the evil which needs exposing, and to invite an appropriate response from the Magistrate or Judge as citizen.  This can be politically effective as well as personally empowering for activists.

A second tradition is to get in front of a higher court and try to make a “justification” defence.  Ploughshares actions regularly travel this path, and there are a handful of acquittals to show for it.  It costs more, and can also be effective.

A third reason to be in Court is to defend the legal and political rights which shelter the processes of dissent and negotiation through which we act.  That’s what Margaret was chiefly up to here, and she learned a lot.

It’s a shame the verdict went against her.

During TS11 the Police were defeated twice in Court over Peaceful Assembly issues, and the Rockhampton Regional Council was corrected re political discrimination.  It would have been nice to set some boundaries for the ADF.

Every action campaign faces a variety of legal assaults and constraints.  It’s in all our interests to build skills for court advocacy and self-defence.

For what it’s worth, Margaret noticed during her preparation that a lot of the legal skill and talent available to activists in regional Queensland is not sufficiently equipped to stage a full and proper defence.  Friends who are lawyers working in legal aid or community advocacy don’t generally get to run spirited criminal defences.  A lot of their work involves pleading guilty and negotiating sentence.  Over worked.  Under resourced.

Which makes me even more grateful to Margaret for putting herself on the line.  Margaret loves to be loved.  She would have loved a court system that paid attention to the why of “no more war”, and could uphold the standards of behaviour required by a just society.

Did someone say "Rocky's a beaut!"?

Instead she endured myopia, technical quibbles, and a prosecutorial/judicial team that rewarded officialdom.  It’s a war system after all….. until it’s changed.  I really like the photo of Margaret and her pal Kate.  Kate’s a dinkum local, and the back-drop is Paradise Lagoon, an icon to the local beef industry.

Margaret’s Trial

June 4th, 2012
Margaret Pestorius, 47 of Cairns is on trial next Tuesday 12 June 2012, at Rockhampton Magistrates Court.

 

A US Amphibious Assault Vehicle inside the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area 20 July 2011

 

For “Possessing a Camera, with intent” in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.

The ADF has abused a counter espionage law,

using it as a weapon against political dissent. 

 

How does this photo get to be a criminal offence?

 

Margaret has been charged under Section 82 (2) of the Defence Act 1903, which says

“If:

(a)  a person enters or approaches any defence installation with sketching, drawing, photographing, or painting materials or apparatus in his or her possession; and

(b)  the person has no lawful authority for that conduct; and

(c)  the person intends to contravene subsection (1);  (make a sketch, drawing etc)

then:

(d)  the person is guilty of an offence; and

(e)  all tools and all materials or apparatus for sketching, drawing, photographing or painting found in his or her possession are forfeited and may be destroyed, sold, or otherwise disposed of, as the Governor-General directs.

(2A)  The maximum penalty for an offence under subsection (2) is a fine of $100.”

 

Margaret Pestorius is preparing to defend herself in court next Tuesday against this bogus charge, laid by Queensland Police upon complaint from the ADF (via the District Intelligence Office of Rockhampton Police).

She is responding with courage to a vicious act of harassment.

The 3 Jaegerstaetter Amigos outside Rockhampton Magistrates Court on 21 July 2011.

 

By charging her 6 months after the event…

by insisting on a trial in Rockhampton…

and by calling witnesses from around Australia…

Queensland Police have colluded with the ADF to inflict substantial cost and risk on Margaret.  The maximum fine for the offence is $100.  The cost of the trial is somewhere around $10,000.  The prosecution has said they will seek these costs from Margaret.

Margaret has the courage of her convictions.  She intends pleading NOT GUILTY, and putting the Crown to proof.  She has several compelling grounds for acquittal.

To illustrate the absurdity of this prosecution I’ve prepared an A3 poster titled “Spot the Difference”.

The poster shows four photos taken during an Exercise Talisman Sabre, two of which ARE subject to the criminal charge… and two of which ARE NOT.  Viewers are encouraged to “Spot the Difference”.

Spot the Difference

 

WARNING: It’s harder than you think.  (attached)

Under s82(2) of the Defence Act it’s a criminal offence to photograph a military aircraft, yet you will see a photo of an ADF “Tiger” helicopter at Rockhampton airport, taken without authority by Chris Ison, chief photographer of the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.  The photo was published widely.  It was on the front page of the daily newspaper on the very same day the District Intelligence Office of the Rockhampton Police decided to investigate Margaret’s camera.  Yet Chris Ison has never been investigated or charged for taking the very same kind of photo.

If you go to http://www.jetspotter.com/forum/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=12332&start=45 you’ll see a whole bunch of very detailed pics of military aircraft, all credited to amateur aircraft enthusiasts.  This mob have never been investigated or charged either.  At CQ Planespotting http://cqplanespotting.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/military-exercise-talisman-sabre-2011_21.html they re-use the Bulletin pic, as well as illegal photos of their own on the masthead.

 How does a photo get to be a criminal offence?

Beyond that issue, Margaret will be arguing that she had completely different reasons for possessing that camera.

Reasons to do with the practice of nonviolence in an interventionary campaign.  To establish the basis of the Shoalwater Wilderness Pilgrimage, the basis on which the shrine to Franz Jaegerstaetter was built, and the importance of publicity in nonviolence campaigning, Bryan Law will be giving evidence.  (It’s his camera after all, and the shrine was his idea).