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Good prisoner, bad prisoner

It's been a while since I blogged, so time to set something down. The plights of various Australians in deep trouble around the world is worth a bit of a rave. How does the Australian Government justify various inconsistencies over it's approach to imprisoned Aussies, and how does this affect their various fates?

The most public face of Australians in overseas prisons is that of Schapelle Corby, the 27 year old beauty consultant who was asked to unzip her boogie board cover while passing through customs in Bali, revealing more than 4 kilograms of marijuana in a clear plastic bag. The ultimate penalty for such a crime in Indonesia? - Death by firing squad. In contrast to the justice system in western countries, Corby has been photographed by camera crews meeting with her family, sobbing through the bars, collapsing on her way into court, in extreme distress during the court proceedings, and pleading her innocence directly to those recording her distress. Her fate is not yet known, though unless in the most unlikely event that she is found not guilty, it would seem a long term of imprisonment in a Bali cell is the most likely result, with perhaps an eventual presidential pardon at best, or a transfer to an Australian prison the most hopeful result. The Australian Government has voiced its concerns for this tragic case, and as in all comparisons with overseas transgressions, one cannot but reflect on a 'crime' which would perhaps be punishable by a hefty fine, or at most a short prison sentence in Australia. The damage which could/would be caused by the dissemination of the drugs in question is by any sensible independent view, modest.

At the height of the publicity and public sympathy for Corby, comes the so-called 'Bali 9'. It seems the Australian Federal Police had been keeping track of some young Australians, some of whom had made a number of trips to Bali in recent months and years. Four of them, the youngest being just eighteen years old, were detained in the departure lounge at Dempasar airport, and were filmed as bags of heroin strapped to their bodies were being removed (the film later sold to commercial television channel 10 in Australia for public consumption). An apparent ringleader of the group, arrested but carrying no drugs was dubbed the "Godfather" of the group, a ridiculous title for an apparent small time crook. Other Australians were arrested in their hotel room with some heroin and scales in the room. All of these young people, which includes one female, are facing the death by firing squad penalty. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has stated he has no pity for the group, although he is opposed, as is the government, to the death penalty. This begs the question as to why the smugglers were not allowed to enter Australia before being arrested, where a hefty imprisonment would have been their fate. The AFP must have known that they were virtually condemning these foolish young people to death. While heroin is a dangerous, sometimes fatal drug, it is arguable that it could be less dangerous if it was legalized and controlled, but leaving that debate aside, what good is served by the death of these young people? The degree of angst which will surface as the case proceeds through the courts, to a perhaps inevitable result will be extreme in the months and years to come.

The obvious and logical defence the Australian Government can claim is that the crimes occurred in a foreign country, and that the transgressors are subject to the laws of that country, albeit a much different system of justice to that of Australia's. What then, of the kangaroo court of Guantanamo Bay on Cuba, the American lease which is used conveniently by the US military and Government to forgo the rights of the US constitution, to imprison without charge, to ignore the Geneva Conventions, and in which Adelaide's David Hicks has been held for going on four years? On this disgraceful situation the Australian Government has been virtually silent. It would seem that the freedom and justice the Coalition of the Willing bleats about applies only to citizens of the United States, and even as participants in the coalition, the Australian Government does not have the guts to demand justice for David Hicks. To the credit of activists in the US, these illegal imprisonments are being challenged though the courts. No thanks to the Australian Government, who in this case, don't give a damn!

The latest perplexing challenge for the Government is how to handle the case of an American-based Australian citizen who has been captured by 'insurgents' in Iraq. Douglas Wood has been operating his business in Iraq, part of which included maintenance within the 'Green Zone', the fortress-like conclave behind which the Americans and their allies need to retreat to after their forays into the streets of liberated Iraq. It's hardly the kind of work which he and his family can plead was contributing to the well being of the Iraqi people - indeed he could be seen to be cashing in on that unfortunate country's misery. It is a difficult balancing act when one has to defend the imprisonment and lack of due process for David Hicks, on the one hand, for being captured by US forces during their invasion of Afghanistan, while at the same time defending the right of someone to profit by the illegal invasion of Iraq on the other. The capture and mistreatment of all and sundry in these situations is a tragedy for the individuals, their families and loved ones, and for all who desire justice and a fair go. The Australian Government's squirming and calls for selective justice is sickening and hypocritical. With close to six hundred locked away for years in Guantanamo Bay with our government's blessing, and numerous others in refugee gulags in Australia and Nauru, there is little moral ground to plead from.

Posted: Thu - September 21, 2006 at 04:49 PM      
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