Author: Cate Adams

An American Spy Base Hidden in Australia’s Outback

By JACKIE DENT NOV. 23, 2017 (New York Times) ALICE SPRINGS, Australia — Margaret Pestorius arrived at court last week in her wedding dress, a bright orange-and-cream creation painted with doves, peace signs and suns with faces. “It’s the colors of Easter, so I always think of it as being a resurrection dress,” said Ms. Pestorius, a 53-year-old antiwar activist and devout Catholic, who on Friday was convicted of trespassing at a top-secret military base operated by the United States and hidden in the Australian outback. Read More… (This article appeared first in the New York Times, then in...

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Five Peace Pilgrims guilty on all counts

By KIERAN FINNANE 24 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online UPDATE, 24 November 2017, 4.52pm: Sentencing of all six Peace Pilgrims, including Mr Christie, has been set down for December 4. They have been bailed to appear from their respective cities of residence, Cairns and Brisbane. In relation to the five whose trial concluded today, the Crown has called for imprisonment as the only appropriate sentence in the circumstances, although Michael McHugh SC pointed out that imprisonment can take different forms, such as suspended sentences with various conditions. However, for the older offenders Margaret Pestorious and Jim Dowling, given...

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Trial Day Six (and counting) – the jury is out

Day six in the Alice Springs supreme court for the Pine Gap peace pilgrims. With all the evidence done and the verdict set to be given, you would be forgiven for thinking we would be getting more nervous. But in fact we were the most rested and relaxed of any morning we’ve had yet – done with the legal arguments and testimonies, we could hand the whole thing over to the jury and whatever other forces are at work. The first couple of hours in court was Justice Reeves giving directions to the jury and summarising the evidence. Mostly...

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Even if ‘unfair, unreasonable or too harsh’, it is still the law

By KIERAN FINNANE 23 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online After four hours of deliberation, the jury in the trials of five Peace Pilgrims have yet to deliver a verdict. They will return to their deliberations tomorrow. Although it is a joint trial, the jury must consider the evidence separately in relation to each defendant and find the charges proven beyond reasonable doubt. The verdicts must be unanimous. It is not open to them, as a matter of law, to find the accused not guilty because they believed the law under which they are being judged is “unfair, unreasonable...

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Trial Day Five – Will our defences stand?

Day five in court for the Pine Gap peace pilgrims. It was a tired morning after a big night of preparing legal arguments and joining a local bible study at the gates of Pine Gap itself; but once again we put on our assortment of anti-war t-shirts (except for Franz, who donned a fancy paisley number for the occasion) and headed back to the court. Yesterday we had said goodbye to a few of the friends and supporters who had come from across the country to Alice Springs for the trial. Unfortunately the trial seems to have outlasted people’s...

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No extraordinary emergency at Pine Gap: judge rules

By KIERAN FINNANE 22 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online The defences which the Peace Pilgrims have tried to raise in relation to entering the Pine Gap prohibited area have been ruled out by Justice John Reeves. The defences, under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, were that they were not criminally responsible for their conduct because it was in response to a sudden or extraordinary emergency, and that the conduct was in defence of themselves and others. The sudden or extraordinary emergency, they said, was the escalating incidence of drone strikes for which Pine Gap provides the targeting information. And...

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Trial day four – the Peace Pilgrims take the stand

Day four in the Alice Springs supreme court for the five peace pilgrims charged with trespassing on Pine Gap. And this one was really our most important day so far as we finally got to give our testimony. Again we stopped for prayers outside the court. The bible passage I was reminded of was Matthew 10 as Jesus sends out the disciples. He tells them “when they arrest you and put you before the courts, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for the...

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Did Peace Pilgrims answer an extraordinary emergency?

By KIERAN FINNANE 21 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online What were the Peace Pilgrims trying to prevent when they entered the prohibited area of Pine Gap in September last year? If they can establish that there was a sudden or extraordinary emergency and that their action on entering the prohibited area of Pine Gap in September last year was a reasonable way to respond to that emergency, then that could be a legal defence of their actions. One by one they have presented their evidence in chief. Read More at Alice Springs News Online...

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Trial Day Three – defence opens

The five Pine Gap peace pilgrims were back in court today after a couple of days off. The weekend was not spent idly mind you – besides lots of case planning, we did a lament service on Saturday night at ANZAC Hill, and a public meeting at the town council building where we heard perspectives on Pine Gap from a couple of the peace pilgrims, Nautilus Institute’s Richard Tanter, former senator Scott Ludlam and US drone whistleblower Lisa Ling. So with our spirits (if not our bodies) re-energised, we headed to court again this morning. Outside the court we...

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Pine Gap’s role in drone warfare: former Senator, former PM

By KIERAN FINNANE 20 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online Justice John Reeves today overruled Crown objections to allow former senator Scott Ludlum to answer questions about the role Pine Gap military base has in the US drone warfare program. The questions came from defendant Andrew Paine, following the opening of the defence case in the trial of five Peace Pilgrims charged with entering the Pine Gap prohibited area in September last year. Mr Paine said the question went to the defendants’ belief that they were acting to prevent harm to others and to the objective reasonableness of that...

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War on Trial Public forum on Periscope

WAR ON TRIAL Public forum will be broadcast on the WagePeaceau Periscope channel. Watch, comment, like, ask questions. Professor Richard Tanter – President of ICAN Scott Ludlam – Long time peace activist Margaret Pestorius – Peace Pilgrim Lisa Ling – Drones Whistle blower Join us in Alice Springs at the Andy McNeill Room, Alice Springs Town Council on Gap Road or on the WagePeaceau Periscope channel @wagepeaceau      ...

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Strange encounters: the Peace Pilgrim and the Police Sergeant

By KIERAN FINNANE 18 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online “Hi, Ken.” “Good morning, Margaret.” Not many cross-examinations begin this way. From the bar is self-represented defendant Margaret Pestorius, accused of entering the Pine Gap prohibited area under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. In the witness box is Sergeant Kenneth Napier of the AFP’s Protective Services, an employee at the base for some 25 years. He is now Officer in Charge of AFP operations at the military base and in Alice Springs. I’m known to you? asks Ms Pestorius. Yes, he answers, looking directly at her, unlike most...

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Trial Day Two – We went to break the denial most Australians live in when it comes to this US base in the middle of our country

Day two of court for the five Pine Gap peace pilgrims, and the end of a long week during which we have all become very familiar faces to the friendly staff of the Alice Springs Supreme Court. The day was sadly lacking in much courtroom drama, taken up as it was by prosecution witnesses – all of whom were police recounting in excruciating detail the events of the early morning of September 29, 2016. The first witness, head of the Federal Police at the base, was another veteran of the epic three week trial of the four Pine Gap...

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Peace Pilgrims: evidence on why, not if they were at Pine Gap

By KIERAN FINNANE 17 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online The five Peace Pilgrims defending their actions in the Supreme Court are continuing their efforts to put before the jury evidence of why, not if, they were found within the boundaries of the Pine Gap military facility in the early hours of 29 September last. Jim Dowling, cross-examining witness Sergeant Kenneth Napier of the AFP’s Protective Services, an employee at the base for some 25 years, asked if security at the base had been beefed up after the incursion onto it by peace activists 10 years ago. Yes, answered...

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Open Letter to Attorney General Brandis

We seek your urgent intervention to protect the right to freedom of speech, expression, political communication and of religion for six Australian citizens who face up to seven years in jail for a peaceful protest in which they were praying and playing musical instruments. In September 2016, several hundred Australians of diverse ages, professions and creeds gathered in Alice Springs to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Pine Gap Agreement. As part of the peaceful protests near the facility, five Christians prayed and played a musical lament, regarding the role of Pine Gap in war-fighting in...

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Qld Senator Andrew Bartlett supports Pine Gap Peace Pilgrims

We are extremely grateful to Senator Andrew Bartlett for speaking up for us in the Senate. Here is the transcript – Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (18:29): I’d like to speak tonight about something that’s happening right now in Alice Springs involving a number of people from my home state of Queensland. It is a trial that’s occurring about some people who conducted a peaceful protest at Pine Gap quite recently. The Pine Gap spy base has been in operation now for just over 50 years. This original Pine Gap agreement with the US government was signed in 1966. In September last year, several hundred Australians from a range of ages, backgrounds, professions and faiths gathered in Alice Springs to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of that Pine Gap agreement and protest against it. They have continued part of what has been a very long tradition of protest regarding the Pine Gap spy base. It is worth emphasising that the role of this base, as a part of the global war machine, has increased dramatically in recent times, so those concerns that were expressed by many protesters through the eighties, nineties and early parts of this century are more valid than ever. If I could quote esteemed academic and one of the foremost experts on this issue in Australia, Professor Richard Tanter has said: Pine Gap literally hardwires us...

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Next 5 PineGapPilgrims face court for ‘entering’ Pine Gap – Day 1

After three days in court supporting our friend Paul, this morning court began for the five peace pilgrims. Before entering, we did a procession through Alice Springs to the front of the court. Songs were sung, supportive messages from friends were read out, and a few short speeches given about the need to resist violence. The morning was taken up empanelling the jury, so it wasn’t until after lunch that court proceedings really began. There was a bit of debate about whether we would be able to give an opening statement outlining our defence that our actions were defending...

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Peace Pilgrims fight Pine Gap charges: their actions intended to defend themselves and others from imminent disaster

By KIERAN FINNANE 16 November 2017 Alice Springs News Online In the early hours of 29 September last year, five people were allegedly detected standing on rocks on a steep hill within Pine Gap military base boundaries, playing musical instruments – a lament. All five stand charged in the Supreme Court with entering a prohibited area under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. One of the five, Andrew Paine, is also charged with having a photographic apparatus (a mobile phone) in the prohibited area. The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years in gaol. The other four are...

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Support the #PineGapPilgrims

We were lamenting war and praying for peace at Pine Gap. We have been found guilty of "being" in a prohibited area, and await sentencing. Now we need your help and support:
  1. To get involved sign up for Wage Peace Newsletter for updates, invitation to actions, call outs. Also to halt the march of the military in our universities and communities. Share this information with your friends and networks.
  2. Donate to help us with the costs of travelling back from Alice Springs and general costs that we incurred fighting this case.
  3. Support us with Actions in Alice Springs, Brisbane and Cairns on December 4th when we will be sentenced in the Brisbane Federal Court