Minister claims “consular assistance” given to Assange. PEN Melbourne members appalled by response; John Pilger on Assange and other Updates:

PEN Melbourne committee members were appalled at the response they received (below) from the office of Foreign Minister Marise Payne to the letter they sent urging the Australian Government to protect Julian Assange from the continued torture he endures in a British prison and to help stop his extradition to the USA.
We publish a response by Arnold Zable to call out the callousness of the Australian Government towards Assange.
We also recommend Payne, Morrison and their Government watch this short compilation youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18LfJ5yGMoc
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This is why I regard Kafka as the greatest writer of the twentieth century. His stories and novels, especially ‘The trial’, exposed this bureaucratic brutality — how innocent people could be tortured and left in legal limbo, and driven to madness, while the perpetrators camouflaged the crime, and their own consciences, by hiding behind the cold, lifeless language of procedure. Behind this short letter, lies so much real life agony, and it can be applied to all too many contemporary scenarios. Assange is ‘the other.’ He has been ‘othered’ And if he is driven mad, and driven to suicide, or committed to a virtual lifetime in prison, those who have driven him mad, and destroyed his life, will shrug their shoulders and wash their hands of it, and issue statements such as this. I bet the word they will use, if the worst happens, will be ‘regret’. Another one of those weasel words. The horror. The horror.
Arnold 
*
Here is the response from Minister Payne’s DFAT:
Here is the letter sent to Minister Payne, the Prime Minister and other members of the government:
August 25, 2021
Attention: We urge the Australian Government to protect Julian Assange and stop his extradition to the USA
Prime Minister of Australia
Honorable Scott Morrison
Dear Prime Minister,The Melbourne Centre of PEN International is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of Julian Assange.We are deeply disturbed by your Government’s apparent inaction to protect an Australian citizen who has shown immense courage as a journalist and a publisher.We urge you to utilise all your Government’s diplomatic strength and will with Australia’s strongest allies, the US and the UK, to free Assange from UK’s Belmarsh High Security Prison and to prevent his extradition to the US, before the US appeal to the UK High Court in late October, 2021.PEN Melbourne is a human rights organisation committed to advocating for freedom of expression, and supporting writers who are imprisoned in political contexts of tyranny. As presented in the open letter[1] by Lawyers for Assange to the UK Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson: “There is broad international consensus that political offences should not be the basis of extradition.[2] This is reflected in Art. 3 of the 1957 European Convention on Extradition, Art. 3 ECHR, Art. 3(a) of the UN Model Treaty on Extradition, the Interpol Constitution and every bilateral treaty ratified by the US for over a century”.

We are sure that you and your government have been following the changing judicial circumstances of Julian Assange. We reiterate here what has taken place in 2021 and urge your action.

On 4 January, 2021 the District Judge of the Westminster Magistrate’s Court ruled against the US request to extradite Assange on medical grounds relating to his poor mental health.  As you are aware the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and medical experts had previously visited Assange in 2019, and his report said the following, ‘’Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture…”.[3] The Westminster Magistrate Judge’s decision earlier this year relied on evidence from Michael Kopelman, a professor of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London, who told the court he believed Assange would take his own life if extradited.

The US appealed the January decision to the UK High Court on 11 August, 2021.

US Counsel has been granted permission to appeal on five grounds, including a reassessment of the expert evidence used to evaluate Julian Assange’s risk of suicide.

The full appeal will be heard at the High Court on 27 and 28 October.

We urge you to protect this Australian writer in prison. Up to now you have compromised your duty of care to Mr. Assange whose case sets a dangerous precedent for journalists everywhere.  In this time available we urge you to use your full diplomatic force and relations with Australia’s allies and immediately make a strong representation to the UK government to release Julian Assange from prison. We ask you to work with the US leadership and urge them to drop the appeal to extradite Julian Assange.

 

These actions are the basic measures required to provide protection of Julian Assange’s most fundamental human rights and dignity.

Thank you

 

Jackie Mansourian and Josephine Scicluna

Co-Convenors of Writers in Prison, PEN Melbourne

 

[1] https://www.lawyersforassange.org/en/open-letter.html#_edn9

[2] R. Stuart Phillips, ‘The Political Offence Exception and Terrorism: Its Place in the Current Extradition Scheme and Proposal for Its Future’, 15 Dickinson Journal of International Law, (1997) p. 342.

[3] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, ‘UN expert says “collective persecution” of Julian Assange must end now, (31 May 2019)’, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24665.

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JOHN PILGER: A Day in the Death of British Justice

The reputation of British justice now rests on the shoulders of the High Court in the life or death case of Julian Assange.

Extracts of an article by  John Pilger in London
Special to Consortium News, 12 August, 2021

For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, the collusion between nominal political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation and the CIA’s Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your TV set, into a spy in your midst.

WikiLeaks released almost a million documents from Russia which allowed Russian citizens to stand up for their rights. It revealed the Australian government had colluded with the U.S. against its own citizen, Assange. It named those Australian politicians who have “informed” for the U.S. It made the connection between the Clinton Foundation and the rise of jihadism in American-armed states in the Gulf.

About Those Who Take Us to War

There is more: WikiLeaks disclosed the U.S. campaign to suppress wages in sweatshop countries like Haiti, India’s campaign of torture in Kashmir, the British government’s secret agreement to shield “U.S. interests” in its official Iraq inquiry and the British Foreign Office’s plan to create a fake “marine protection zone” in the Indian Ocean to cheat the Chagos islanders out of their right of return.

In other words, WikiLeaks has given us real news about those who govern us and take us to war, not the preordained, repetitive spin that fills newspapers and television screens. This is real journalism; and for the crime of real journalism, Assange has spent most of the past decade in one form of incarceration or another, including Belmarsh prison, a horrific place.

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If you can unravel the arcane logic of this, you have a better grasp than I who have sat through this case from the beginning. It is clear Kopelman misled nobody. Judge Baraitser – whose hostility to Assange personally was a presence in her court – said that she was not misled; it was not an issue; it did not matter. So why had Lord Chief Justice Holroyde spun the language with its weasel legalise and sent Julian back to his cell and its nightmares? There, he now waits for the High Court’s final decision in October – for Julian Assange, a life or death decision.

In the Land of Magna Carta

And why did Holroyde send Stella from the court trembling with anguish? Why is this case “unusual”? Why did he throw the gang of prosecutor-thugs at the Department of Justice in Washington — who got their big chance under Trump, having been rejected by Obama – a life raft as their rotting, corrupt case against a principled journalist sunk as surely as Titantic?

This does not necessarily mean that in October the full bench of the High Court will order Julian to be extradited. In the upper reaches of the masonry that is the British judiciary there are, I understand, still those who believe in real law and real justice from which the term “British justice” takes its sanctified reputation in the land of the Magna Carta. It now rests on their ermined shoulders whether that history lives on or dies.

To read the full article, follow this link:
Another Consortium News article containing a lot of detail about the US appeal is:

LETTER FROM LONDON: Worrying Turn in Assange Case

The U.S. victory in court on Wednesday makes the prospects for Julian Assange at October’s appeal hearing murky at best, writes Alexander Mercouris.
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Ryan Grim: State Dept DODGES Question On Julian Assange, Support Of Free Press

In this Youtube, Ryan Grim breaks down the state department’s hypocritical support of international press freedom while attempting to prosecute Julian Assange.
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PEN International urges United Kingdom and USA: Immediately release Julian Assange and drop extradition case

Responding to the news, Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:

‘The charges faced by Julian Assange in the US represent a huge threat to media freedom and investigative journalism everywhere. Our position is clear. Espionage laws should not be used against journalists and publishers for disclosing information of public interest. We once again urge the US authorities to drop the case against Assange and to withdraw their extradition appeal.’

Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:

‘The UK authorities must uphold their commitment to press freedom and prevent Julian Assange’s extradition to the US. Assange has been held in Belmarsh High Security Prison for over two years. This case has deeply concerning implications for press freedom and as such he should be released as a matter of urgency.’

https://pen-international.org/news/united-kingdom-usa-immediately-release-julian-assange-and-drop-extradition-case

Afghanistan: ASRC Petition and WISA Fundraiser

Action is urgently needed.

Petition for more refugees.

The Asylum Seekers Resource Centre has a petition urging the government to accept more Afghan refugees, if you are interested to sign.

Donations for immediate food, blankets and tents

PEN Melbourne has links with WISA which is in partnership with Afghan Women’s Organisation Victoria, AWOV, and supports their fundraiser. They have a long history of supporting women in Afghanistan.

PEN Connections

300 words for truth

I dedicate my life’s work to all past and present Iranian writers and thinkers who have been imprisoned, tortured, executed and exiled.

We live in the age of new catastrophes. An exile’s life is about fighting against oppression in the country of birth, gaining knowledge, demanding justice and freedom for all the world’s people. Being an exile has taught me the true meaning of commitment, resoluteness and resistance of oppression and injustice.

Exile teaches you how to resist, stand up when you fall, again and again, and walk back. It teaches you how to look deeper. It shows you not to see things superficially. Exile is a unique mode of seeing and thinking and living and dying. It reminds you about the real benefits regarding your stance facing the injustices imposed on yourself and others.

To read the whole article, follow this link to the Overland website:

https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-241/feature-300-words-for-truth/

You can also view Mammad’s presentation at the Wheeler Centre hosted by Sami Shah. It was recorded on Thursday, 14th March 2019 as one of the Writing in Exile series of lectures organised by PEN Melbourne.

https://www.wheelercentre.com/broadcasts/writing-in-exile-mammad-aidani

Mammad Aidani is a human rights advocate, poet, playwright, theatre director, and psychosocial researcher. In his research he investigates the violence, torture, trauma and suffering experienced by Iranian and Middle Eastern immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who have resettled in Australia and the West. Mammad is currently the vice president of PEN International Melbourne. He teaches Hermeneutics and Phenomenological philosophy at the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy. Mammad’s writings have been banned in Iran.

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A Letter to Australian and Western Artists

“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” — Albert Camus

In support of writers in prison in Iran and all exiled writers

 

Art is about telling truths. I believe that the artist’s role is to resist oppression and injustice in any society, to demand justice when he or she sees it and, with good conscience, expose it at any cost.

Australian artists and those involved in the arts who visit Iran to perform, participate and engage in artistic events need to know that their visits, online performances, and acts serve to legitimise and endorse the country’s oppressive Islamic regime. These artists should be conscious that it is impossible to hold any artistic event without official permission from the notorious Ministry of Culture and Religious Guidance — the Ministry is watching everything done by artists, writers, journalists, and intellectuals.  Over the last 43 years, its task has been to strictly scrutinise anything written, translated, performed and published by Iranians. In an Orwellian sense, it is the  Ministry of “thought control”.

The Iranian Islamic regime systematically abuses the human rights of its citizens. It arrests, interrogates,  imprisons, tortures, and  has executed artists, writers, and poets who have defied the censorship of their work and directly criticised the brutality and injustices the regime imposes on Iranian people. Artists who go to Iran to present their work are in danger of legitimising the Islamic regime’s oppression of the Iranian people over the last 43 years.

Perhaps the Australian artists who visit Iran (and who work online with Iranians inside Iran or accomplices of the regime abroad) do not know this. However, their Iranian friends here in Australia and other Western countries and their hosts inside Iran are well aware of the Islamic regime’s dictatorship and censorship in Iran. They know that no one can directly criticise the Iranian Islamic regime’s oppression and brutality inside or outside their county without being met by severe punishment. They are aware that artists can not freely express their thoughts and views in Iran, and most who have tried to do so find themselves silenced, exiled and worse.

History has shown us that oppressive regimes, threatened by the thought of their people seeking freedom, will stop at nothing to maintain absolute control over them. This is equally true of these regimes’ opportunistic apologists, justifiers and accomplices. Consequently, a true critic of the Iranian Islamic regime who lives outside Iran cannot visit the country and return safely to their country of residence.

It is essential for Australian and other Western artists, however well-intentioned, to inform themselves about the actual political situation in Iran if they are approached to collaborate on an art project in the country. When these invitations come from Iranians who, while living abroad, freely move between Iran and their country of residence, one should seriously wonder and enquire: how is it that these artists can freely move between Iran and their country of residence? How does the Iranian regime allow them to visit to perform their works and participate in arts projects in Iran and leave the country as they wish? Most importantly, how is it that the Iranian Islamic regime, with its inflexible censorship system under the brutal control of the Ministry of Culture and Religious Guidance, allows them to perform and exhibit their works in Iran while violently oppressing others.

Many Iranian artists have wholeheartedly and courageously demonstrated their commitment to truth-telling by actively defying and challenging the undemocratic Iranian  Islamic regime through their words and actions.  Artists and intellectuals could follow their lead to demonstrate their genuine care, respect and honour their sacrifices and actions.

Mammad Aidani

Human rights advocate, playwright and a Melbourne International PEN Committee Member

 

 

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Analogue Iran by Ali MC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ICs6EKbBGs

In August and September 2019, documentary photographer Ali MC spent four weeks capturing the diversity of Iran through black and white 35mm film. The result is Analog Iran, an online exhibition which explores the diversity of a country that is often stereotyped in the media. From the border of Afghanistan to the bustling metropolis of Tehran, these photographs bring to life the everyday lives of Iranian people. Ali’s work shows the tension between the hospitality and graciousness of the Iranian people, and the constant political and economic pressures of daily life. Join us for this wonderful presentation of his stunning photographs, and tales of his travels through this amazing part of the world.

The Australian Bar Association calls on the Commonwealth to reconsider the prosecution of Bernard Collaery

UPDATE from Susan Connelly

Dear All,

We continue to await the outcome of Bernard Collaery’s appeal challenging a ruling to hold his trial largely in secret under national security laws.
As soon as I know anything, I will pass the information on.
There are many other matters which concern us all. Here are a few:
Democracy
Here is a link to DEMOCRACY DOSSIER: Secrecy and Power in Australia’s National Security State.  
https://cdn.getup.org.au/2836-GetUp-Democracy-Dossier.pdf  This is fairly harrowing, but necessary to read.
Bernard Collaery is shown as an example of how our democratic values have been undermined by counter- terrorism powers and a growing culture of government secrecy.  I highly recommend it.  
Also recommended is Clinton Fernandes’s “Rules-based Order”. Well worth reading, pondering and acting on.  https://arena.org.au/the-rules-based-order/
 
Afghanistan
Many people across Australia are working very hard to address the plight of Afghani people. A new group across the Christian churches has recently formed:  Christians United for Afghanistan  https://www.unitedforafghanistan.com/  There’s the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) https://capsa.org.au/ And Jesuit Refugee Services https://mailchi.mp/jrs.org.au/updates-from-the-frontlines?e=837b6bed72
I’ve attached a letter I wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald at the end of August.

René Girard

René Girard’s  remarkable insights are helping many people to reflect on the violence in our world.
Here are four documents either 20 or 4 pages in length, with illustrations and other links:  https://justly.info/rene-girard/
Some of the ideas posed are about desire, imitation, rivalry, scapegoating and violence.

I find Girard’s work extremely useful when considering the state of the world.

Here’s an article by Dr Joel Hodge where he  discusses the concept of “jihardism” using Girard’s approach. https://www.thedefensepost.com/2021/09/07/lessons-jihadists-afghanistan/

West Papua

Pro-independence political activist, Victor Yeimo has been arbitrarily arrested and charged with treason for peacefully protesting against racial discrimination in Indonesia. Please join me in signing this petition demanding the Indonesian authorities grant Victor Yeimo’s immediate release or prosecute him in a fair trial. 

https://action.amnesty.org.au/act-now/indonesia-release-peaceful-anti-racism-protester-victor-yeimo?fbclid=IwAR2b1u52J7ARaOH8WkzQoFu3m8kzP_sYVFjTSBXgdx4hBcXl6BC8hdV24i0

Very best wishes to all,

Susan

Sister Susan Connelly
14 Yerrick Road

Communication from GetUp:

In a few weeks, a report commissioned by 4,481 GetUp members will be released detailing how anti-democratic legislation since 9/11 has transformed Australia into one of the most secretive states in the democratic world. The explosive dossier exposes how sweeping laws by successive governments have eroded our democracy.

After relentless attempts from the Morrison Government to silence journalists, more than 6,000 GetUp members commissioned a huge press freedom mural in Sydney’s CBD.

In addition to the tens of thousands of people who walked by, the cheeky sky-high cartoon was picked up by one of the largest youth publishers in the world, 1 reaching millions of eyeballs online.

If that wasn’t enough, members helped transform the mural into a full-page newspaper ad seen by almost a million people in the The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Under the Morrison Government things have gotten worse, and public interest journalists and whistleblowers risk jail time for doing their jobs and duty. From raiding the ABC over the Afghan Files, to convicting Witness K in a secret Government trial. And now his lawyer, Bernard Colleary, is himself facing the same treatment — prompting resurged calls for an urgent inquiry into intelligence legislation.2,3

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The Australian Bar Association calls on the Commonwealth to reconsider the prosecution of Bernard Collaery

28 July 2021

The Australian Bar Association shares the concerns of the ACT Bar Association in relation to the prosecution of barrister and former Deputy Chief Minister of the ACT and ACT Attorney-General, Bernard Collaery.

Mr Collaery advised the East Timor Resistance movement and represented Witness K in a legal case brought by the Timor-Leste Government against the Australian Government.

The prosecution relates to events which occurred in 2004. The prosecution was commenced at the end of May 2018 with the consent of the (former) Attorney-General, a consent which his predecessor had not granted.

The prosecution has largely taken place in secret, with much of the evidence suppressed. The basis upon which evidence needs to be suppressed is, itself, the subject of suppression. This impedes the ability of the legal profession and the public to scrutinise the administration of justice in this important case.

Further background can be found in the ACT Bar Association’s media release here.

The Council of the Australian Bar Association this week unanimously passed the following resolution:

The ABA expresses its concerns about the delays in the prosecution of Mr Collaery and the secret nature of the proceedings and suppression of much of the evidence as raising rule of law concerns going to the open and fair administration of justice.

President of the ABA, Matthew Howard SC, said, “This matter raises two, fundamental rule of law questions as to the fair and open administration of justice – the length of time it has taken to prosecute the matter, and the suppression of evidence. For the public to have confidence in the administration of justice, it is vital that prosecutions proceed in a timely manner, and that the workings of the courts be open to public scrutiny to the maximum extent possible. The public will rightly be concerned, in relation to Mr Collaery, that little is or can be known about the prosecution, and that it is continuing some 17 years after the events in question.

“The ABA urges the federal Attorney-General to reconsider the prosecution in light of these significant rule of law issues.”

About the ABA

The Australian Bar Association is the peak body representing nearly 6,000 barristers throughout Australia. Established in 1963, the ABA is committed to serving, promoting and representing its members, as well as advocating for fair and equal justice for all.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: media@austbar.asn.au or call Elizabeth Gray on 0401 561 554.

https://austbar.asn.au/news-media/the-australian-bar-association-calls-on-the-commonwealth-to-reconsider-the-prosecution-of-bernard-collaery

 

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Whistleblowers: The latest on Bernard Collaery and call for a pardon and compensation for Witness K
Dear supporters of justice and democracy
We still don’t know when the decision will be brought down on Bernard’s appeal, but it could happen at short notice, so please keep an eye out for news on that. There is a date of 29 July on the court lists, but I understand that date may just be a mention. I’ll keep you posted.
We are calling for a pardon for Witness K and compensation for the years of stress he has been put through. Here’s a recent article: Albert McNight, Witness K: redacted documents reveal the life of spy and whistleblower, The RiotACT, 11 July 2021.
Planning is well underway for a webinar on David McBride’s case, to be hosted by UQ. Panelists will be Prof and journalist Peter Greste, Law Council President Jacoba Brasch SC, Senior Lawyer, Kieran Pender from Human Rights Law Centre and Rebecca Ananian-Walsh, senior lawyer at UQ. Date to be confirmed, likely mid-late August.
We know that in these cases, national security is being used to hide the crimes of politicians and their advisers, and the surveillance legislation, over 80 pieces, has gone right over the top. See the article by Brian Toohey The rise and rise of Australian authoritarianism, The Saturday Paper, 17-23 July.
We have recently written to President Biden asking him to drop the prosecution and extradition of Julian Assange, and also wrote a letter of support to Julian Assange who recently turned 50 in prison.  Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner, blasts the prosecution as case collapses,YouTube video, 13 July.  We also wrote to Jennifer Robinson, thanking her for her work on behalf of Julian and other human rights matters.
Supporters in Queensland and SA are approaching their Bar Associations  as well as letters sent by CLA to around 16 law firms in Australia, seeking more support for Bernard. The ACT Bar Assoc has put out a media release in support.
Please take a moment to either sign the petition for Bernard and Witness K, or if you have signed it, send the link to your friends.  The petition will be closed off soon – it has nearly reached 60,000 signatures. Let’s get there and more!!
Two events that might be of ACT readers interest have flyers attached – The fundraiser dinner for MAPW with David McBride speaking has been rescheduled to 13 August (COVID permitting) and a Manning Clark house talk with former Bishop George Browning (a speaker at one of our recent rallies) speaking about his new book and rising authoritarianism in Australia on Sat 7 August. Bookings and further details on the flyers.
Don’t forget to write to the CDPP asking her to drop the cases against Bernard, David and Richard Boyle, at Sarah.Mcnaughton@cdpp.gov.au   Ian Cunliffe’s articles on our June Articles website page may be of assistance.   Don’t forget also to visit the aapp.ipan.org.au website for more articles, a book review of Peter Job’s A narrative of denial and videos and more!
For justice and democracy
Kathryn Kelly
Co-Convenor of AAPP
__________________________________________________________________
Dear supporters of justice and democracy
On Friday, Witness K was sentenced to a three month suspended sentence and a 12 month good behaviour bond. While many are expressing relief that he is not facing jail, and that is a valid feeling, the fact is he should never have faced prosecution for expressing concerns about an illegal ISIS action.
See AAPP’s media release of 18 June.  We thank Witness K for his courage,  and will pursue a pardon and compensation for his stress and persecution over so many years.
The ISIS action has been described by a former DPP as a conspiracy to defraud, which was perpetrated not only against Timor-Leste but also the people of Australia, and which raises many questions. Who ordered the bugging?  Who ordered the removal of the words, ‘and inert gases’ from the definition of petroleum thus excluding helium from it and handing windfall profits to Woodside and ConocoPhillips, and loss of rightful revenue to Timor-Leste and Australia? How has this impacted our international relations with a number of countries?  Where was Australia’s good faith in these negotiations?
See the important articles by Ian Cunliffe here for more details on the bugging and helium and also on the CDPP’s prosecution policy.
The need for a strong federal ICAC has never been more urgent. Christian Porter’s pathetic efforts producing such legislation must be improved on by the current AG, Michaelia Cash.
I suggest people ring and/write to Michaelia Cash and the Commonwealth DPP asking them politely to explain in detail how it is in the public interest to continue the prosecution of Bernard Collaery. And ask the AG for strong ICAC legislation!  I’d urge people to also ring/write to Marise Payne, asking how it is that she is allowing our national relations with Timor-Leste to be so damaged by the prosecutions.
AG Michaelia Cash   08-9226 2000  or 6277 7300  Senator.Cash@aph.gov.au
FM Marise Payne  02-9687 8755 or 6277 7500  Senator.Payne@aph.gov.au
CDPP     (0)2 9321 1240      Sarah.McNaughton@cdpp.gov.au
Christian Porter was unfit to be AG and his legacy with his appalling judgement in approving these prosecutions, including that of David McBride, should not continue one minute longer.
Meanwhile we await the decision on Bernard’s appeal and David McBride’s public interest defence hearing on 20 September.
Don’t miss the MAPW Fundraising dinner, 6.30pm Fri 9 July at Ainslie FC with speaker, David McBride, tickets $75!  Flyer attached with further details.
For Justice and Democracy
Kathryn Kelly, Co-convenor of the Alliance Against Political Prosecutions
Thanks to Ian Melrose of OpticalSuperstores for funding the Canberra Times ad on Tuesday.
Thanks to Gilbert + Tobin, Bernard’s lawyers for their invaluable work.
 
Photos from Parliament House rally 17 June 2021, thanks to people who donned the bags!  Photos by, and thanks to, Leo Bild

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Dear All,

The Witness K hearing this week will be held on 3 and 4 June. It seems it will be a sentencing hearing.

I can guarantee that you would find the following YouTube clip very interesting. It is nearly half an hour, but is well worth viewing.  Senator Kim Carr and Senator Rex Patrick engage with the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General in discussing just what the “public interest” is in the cases of Bernard Collaery and Witness K.

You might consider contacting these Senators regarding their dogged pursuit of truth and justice in this matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWzKOWjlKgg

I’ll contact you again after the Witness K Hearing.

Best wishes to all

Susan

Timor Sea Justice Forum Facebook

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TSJForum

Bernard Collaery – Go Fund Me

Petition: Drop the Prosecutions of Witness K and Bernard Collaery

Sister Susan Connelly

14 Yerrick Road

Lakemba NSW 2195

0498 473 341

www.justly.info

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The most recent hearing for Witness K was held on Monday 29th March. The demonstration was addressed by Alicia Payne, MP for Canberra, Flavia Abduraman, (https://muckrack.com/flavia-abdurahman), and Susan Connelly. A fire truck with a grand display of “Drop the Prosecutions” was provided by Ian Fraser and Ian Melrose, design by Cate Adams. On the same day, there was a demonstration outside the Australian Consulate in Auckland. Hooray for our NZ friends! Thanks to Maire Leadbeater.  Click here for photos.

On Wednesday 31 March the ANU webinar was seen by 400 people, many of whom sent in questions. The speeches by Nicholas Cowdery, Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, Kieran Pender and Pauline Wright were incisive and challenging. Kim Rubenstein did a great job of moderating. Click here for the recording from the ANU. Well worth viewing – an excellent event.

Here are two newspaper reports on the Webinar:

Guilty parties remain free in ‘chilling’ Witness K prosecution

Commonwealth prosecutors wrong on Witness K case, former NSW DPP says    

The ACT  Bar Association has sent out a superb media release: Time to Reconsider the Prosecution of Bernard Collaery

Time to reconsider prosecution of Bernard Collaery

With the announcement that Christian Porter will be replaced as Commonwealth Attorney-General, the ACT Bar Association calls on incoming Attorney, The Hon. Michaelia Cash to review the prosecution of former ACT Attorney-General Bernard Collaery.

Bernard Collaery who, for more than 30 years, had advised the East Timor Resistance movement and leading figures involved in the push for independence, represented Witness K in a legal case brought by the Timor-Leste Government against the Australian Government before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the Netherlands.  Witness K was accused of disclosing secret information related to an operation conducted by Australia’s foreign intelligence agency, ASIS, to bug the office of Timor-Leste’s prime minister during oil and gas treaty negotiations in 2004.

In December 2013, ASIO and the AFP raided the homes of Witness K and Bernard Collaery.  Almost 4½ years passed before, on 30 May 2018, both were charged under section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The maximum penalty for this offence is 2 years imprisonment – the same maximum penalty for failing to pay for a restaurant meal.

Because of the nature of the allegations, the charges brought against Bernard Collaery can only be pursued with the consent of the Attorney-General.  Consent to prosecute was first sought from then Attorney-General George Brandis in September 2015. Having obtained advice from two Commonwealth DPPs and the Solicitor-General Mr Stephen Donaghue SC, by the time Mr Brandis was replaced by Mr Porter in December 2017, no consent was forthcoming.

Mr Bret Walker SC, the former independent monitor of Australia’s national security legislation, and now representing Mr Collaery, told ABC Four Corners in 2019 “I imagine the former attorney, Senator Brandis, didn’t find this a straightforward case to say yes to. That’s a very long time for something to be sitting on an attorney’s desk. I imagine it was not for want of thinking about it, that that time elapsed.”

However, within a few months of taking over the portfolio, Christian Porter gave his consent to prosecute the matter in what was criticised by many, including independent MP Andrew Wilkie and former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, as a political decision.

The ongoing prosecution of Bernard Collaery has drawn criticism from many quarters, including retired judicial officers and academics.

The prosecution itself has been marked by further controversary with the secret nature of the proceedings and the suppression of much of the evidence that might be given in the case.

In June 2020, Justice David Mossop of the ACT Supreme Court ruled that material identified by the Attorney-General Christian Porter should be suppressed under the provisions of the National Security Information Act.  That ruling was based upon a secret certificate issued by Christian Porter certifying the material as prejudicial to national security. How, and in what respect, that material is said to be sensitive is itself suppressed.

Bernard Collaery is a 76-year-old man who came to Australia as a boy. He has spent his entire adult life serving the people of Australia. He has served as a First Secretary in the Australian Embassy in France, as the first Attorney-General of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly and has had a long and honorable career both in politics and in private practice as a lawyer.  Bernard Collaery has over decades helped, either for free or at greatly reduced charges, many clients.

There is an available perception that Bernard Collaery is being prosecuted by the Government for his involvement in acting for a man who brought to light allegations of improper and illegal behaviour by the Government.

It is difficult to identify any public, as opposed to political, interest in continuing this prosecution.  It is now eight years since the AFP raided Mr Collaery’s home, and 17 years since the alleged bugging operation. In the interim, the Commonwealth Government has now spent in excess of $3 million pursuing Mr Collaery for his role in acting for Witness K.

With the swearing in of our new Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, an opportunity arises to review the prosecution and, to withdraw consent for it to continue.

The Bar Association of the Australian Capital Territory earnestly calls on the incoming Attorney to undertake such a review.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-26/brandis-had-misgivings-about-prosecuting-witness-k-and-collaery/11449758

End
1 April 2021

Media contact:

Andrew Muller
President ACT Bar Association

Joanne Dean-Ritchie
Executive Officer
0439 990 305

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Another Webinar to Come:

Trashing Democratic Rights in Australia – Discussion and Q&A with Bernard Collaery and Greg Barnes SC, online 6.30pm (AEST) Tuesday April 20th,  Register here.

____________________________________________________________________________________
By Kieran Pender

As we reach the end of 2020, four individuals – Bernard Collaery, Witness K, David McBride and Richard Boyle – are being prosecuted by our government. These whistleblowers spoke up in the public interest, and now face the very real prospect of jail time. If we want to live in a transparent, accountable democracy, that should trouble us all.

Collaery and Witness K revealed that Australia bugged Timor-Leste’s cabinet, to help our government in ripping off an impoverished neighbour during tense oil and gas negotiations. McBride blew the whistle on the alleged actions of Australian special forces in Afghanistan – conduct characterised as potential war crimes by the Inspector-General. Boyle called out aggressive debt recovery practices by the Australian Taxation Office, which deliberately targeted vulnerable small businesses.

In each case, these whistleblowers raised their concerns internally first. Witness K articulated their misgivings with the Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security, in consultation with his Intelligence-approved lawyer, Collaery. McBride went to the police. Boyle lodged an internal disclosure. In each case, they were sidelined or ignored.

In desperation, they spoke up. But for these principled people, we might never have known about the misdeeds – potentially illegal, or, at the very least, improper – done in our name. It is only thanks to Collaery, Witness K, McBride and Boyle that we can demand corrective action and take steps to ensure they are never repeated.

We should be praising these whistleblowers. Instead, the Morrison government is prosecuting them. Orwellian? Kafkaesque? Take your pick.

Whether or not Collaery, McBride or Boyle succeed in their defences (Witness K has indicated a willingness to enter a plea of guilty to a single charge of breaching the Intelligence Services Act, subject to a plea bargain), the chilling effect of the prosecutions is severe. What potential whistleblower – having seen the reality faced by the current quartet – would accept these risks and speak up? Staring down the barrel of psychological trauma, professional ruin and financial oblivion, how many prospective truth-tellers will stay silent?

What wrongdoing might be occurring right now that Australians will never know about, because those who witnessed it remain mute? The cost of courage has become too high a price to pay.

It did not have to be like this. In 2013, the Labor government introduced protections for public servant whistleblowers. The Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act provided a comprehensive regime for the disclosure and investigation of wrongdoing and protections for those who speak up. But while on paper the law was a step in the right direction, it has proven ineffective in practice – no more than a cardboard shield.

In 2016, an independent review by Philip Moss found that “the experience of whistleblowers under the PID Act is not a happy one”. Last year, a Federal Court judge lambasted the law as “technical, obtuse and intractable” and “largely impenetrable”.

On Wednesday, Attorney-General Christian Porter announced that the government was accepting, in part or in whole, 30 of the 33 recommendations made by Moss. This is welcome news, but it is long overdue. Porter and his colleagues have sat on this reform for four and a half years. In the meantime, homes have been raided, charges laid against whistleblowers and secretive trials commenced.

The Attorney-General must reform the PID Act as a matter of urgency. In the government’s official response, it flagged that it intends to go further than the Moss review. This is welcome, although the devil will be in the detail – detail which, for now, remains absent. If Porter is serious about promoting transparency and probity within our democracy, he should commit to legislating stronger protections for government whistleblowers in early 2021. Wednesday’s announcement is a positive step, yet until these changes become law, whistleblowers will continue to suffer.

Recent amendments to the laws protecting Australia’s private sector whistleblowers only underscore Porter’s inaction on public sector reform. Currently, those exposing corporate corruption are better protected than those exposing government misfeasance. That cannot be right. Public servants who speak up deserve protections equal to their private sector counterparts.

Meanwhile, the government has doubled-down on secrecy laws to penalise unauthorised disclosure of official information. It terminates the employment of public servants who dare criticise it online and cuts funding to accountability agencies that were established to keep the government in check. Our freedom of information regime is in tatters. Collectively, these measures guarantee a culture of silence within our public service and make external oversight even harder.

Australia was once a world leader in the field of whistleblower protections. When the first whistleblowing laws were introduced in this country, in 1993, the United States was the only jurisdiction with comparable protections. But as nations across the globe have found innovative ways to protect and empower whistleblowers, Australia has lagged behind. We have failed to shake off the words of a former police commissioner, who once observed that “nobody in Australia much likes whistleblowers”.

Yet any one of us could become a whistleblower. I have met dozens of individuals who have spoken up against wrongdoing. Almost unanimously, they say: “I did not intend to become a whistleblower.”

Many shun the label entirely. They are simply people who did what they believed was right – people who saw cruelty, corruption or abuse of power, and felt morally compelled to do something about it. In their shoes, would we not all hope for the courage to do the same?

Whistleblowers perform a vital democratic function in Australia. They are the canary in the coalmine that is Australian democracy. We must hear their call, not lock them up. The government’s recently-announced commitment to reform the PID Act is welcome, but actions speak louder than words.

Kieran Pender is a senior lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre, and leads the centre’s work on whistleblower protections.

Why Join PEN? (Articles)

Transforming a manuscript to a book: Editing, compromise, and censorship

Paul Morgan

Victorian Writer, PEN column
September 2021

Oh what a feeling! You’ve finished your story… but this is not the end; it’s only a beginning. A neat pile of A4 sheets has a very long way to go before it is transformed into a book.

We are generally too close to – and too much in love with – our own writing to see what needs fixing up to turn it into something that works at its best, keeping a reader turning those pages. To maximise the chances that your work is published and read, it deserves a professional edit. Is the basic concept likely to be picked up by a publisher? Are there plot twists or characters, which were fun to write but don’t add to the story? Does the middle section ‘sag’? Only after these and many other questions are answered, can you even think of submitting to an agent or publisher, let alone think about a copy edit or proofreading.

As part of this process, it’s not uncommon for an editor to suggest you change or remove a passage to make the work a more attractive prospect for a publisher. The choice is yours, and you may not always agree, but it’s usually wise to accept the suggestion. In authoritarian countries (which now outnumber democracies in the world), such suggestions from publishers and authorities have dark consequences if not followed. At best you may be censored or ‘cancelled’. At worst, you may be tortured and imprisoned for years, as happens in Turkey, China, and so many other countries. The PEN International Case List gives chilling details on the scores of writers and journalists persecuted around the world.

It is not only political pressure which causes writing to be ‘edited’ in this way. It may be religious extremism, or a culture which fears sexual freedom. It may be conformity to orthodoxies (right or wrong, right or left), which are intolerant of discourse with other views. It is not only in fundamentalist societies where such restrictions are imposed. For example, Philip Pullman’s best-selling, ‘His Dark Materials’, trilogy was heavily criticised by Christian churches in the US for being ‘anti-religious’, so his North American publisher insisted on editing out a passage which described the heroine, Lyra’s, sexual awakening.

Navigating our own choices when reviewing a manuscript is never an easy task. However, it’s a deeply rewarding process that brings your words closer to becoming a publishable work. These are easy choices though, compared to the challenges faces by writers in countries where a wrong word can mean the author ends up in a dank prison cell for years. There is no greater demonstration that words matter, and have a power which dictators fear.

 


Picture this . . .

Paul Morgan

Victorian Writer, PEN column
June 2021

Lights Out

Weary but wakeful, feverish but still
fixed on the evasive bulb that winks on the wall,
thinking surely it’s time for lights out,
longing for darkness, for the total black-out.

Trapped in distress, caught in this bad dream,
the dust under my feet untouchable as shame,
flat on the cold ground, a span for a bed,
lying side by side, with a blanket on my head.

And the female guards shift, keeping vigil till dawn,
eyes moving everywhere, watching everyone,
sounds of the rosary, the round of muttered words,
fish lips moving, the glance of a preying bird.

Till another hour passes in friendly chat,
in soft talk of secrets or a sudden spat,
with some snoring, others wheezing
some whispering, rustling, sneezing –
filled the space with coughs and groans,
suffocated sobs, incessant moans –
You can’t see the sorrow after lights out.
I long for the dark, total black-out.

The delicate observations in this poem by Mahvash Sabet belie the horror of its subject. So picture this . . . you are a respected writer and school principal in Iran approaching your sixtieth birthday. One day you are arrested and charged with espionage and propaganda. The real reason, though, is ‘blasphemy’ – the crime of being a Baha’i not a Muslim in Iran’s theocratic state. You are sent to notorious Evin Prison where you are tortured and kept in a tiny dark cell. You must sleep on the cold cement floor with no pillow and only a thin blanket for cover. How is it going so far? Ten years go by . . .

Is it possible to endure such conditions without giving way to suicidal despair? For Mahvash Sabet, her survival strategy was to write poems. To distract from her own pain and distress, she focused on the lives of others in the prison – drug addicts and prostitutes as well as criminals – and on tiny details that gave her hope. Mahvash was desperate for the greenery of the natural world in her dark cell, and wrote an entire joyful poem about a thistle growing through a crack in the concrete floor. She called the poem, ‘The Great Outdoors’. Writing poetry enabled her to clean ‘the rust off my heart and recover the strength of my soul,’ Mahvash says. Her strength of mind is humbling.

Written on scraps of paper and smuggled to visitors, these writings were collected and published in an English translation as Prison Poems. After a decade of incarceration in these inhumane conditions, Mahvash was released in 2017 and named PEN International Writer of Courage for that year. While she is now free, the Iranian regime continues to persecute, torture, and imprison thousands of writers and others who dare to express views the regime does not like.

PEN International has a Melbourne office, based at the Wheeler Centre, and welcomes new members and volunteers to help with our work campaigning for people like Mahvash Sabet. Sad to say, PEN has never been busier, with the rise of totalitarian governments around the world. Find out more about our work at www.penmelbourne.org.

 


COVID and the Kingdom of Fear

Paul Morgan

Victorian Writer, PEN column
January 2021

‘How was your lockdown?’ a friend asked when we met for a picnic in the Botanic Gardens.
After the long COVID hibernation, it felt strange to be socialising again, yet the
honest answer was ‘fine!’ Like many of us who write for a living (and don’t have children at home), my routines were largely unchanged.

Yet I wasn’t immune to the fears and anxiety which we all felt over those long, winter
months. In Victoria alone, tens of thousands were infected. Over 800 died. Death seemed to stalk the city. We avoided strangers on the street. Some people wiped down their shopping
with disinfectant. We watched the Premier’s briefings obsessively, as hundreds of new cases were confirmed every day. Our lives were regulated to an extraordinary degree that it’s no exaggeration to call draconian. Police enforced an overnight curfew from 8 pm. It was illegal to be out of your house for more than sixty minutes, or over 5 km from home. Meetings of more than two people were forbidden.

The Murdoch media screamed in protest about ‘Dictator Dan’, but the lockdown
worked. Victorians are enjoying a well-deserved Life after COVID. Friends overseas tell me how surprised they are that Australians were so ‘compliant’, but that is to misunderstand our behaviour. The genius of totalitarianism, Lenin, wrote that ‘trust is good, control is better’. Victorians were not controlled, but trusted their government and consented to the rules for the sake of public health and to save lives. In many other parts of the world, though, such draconian restrictions on life have long-predated the pandemic – not for health reasons, but to control and stamp down on any opposition. From Russia to Egypt, from Myanmar to China, and in dozens of other countries, people live in kingdoms of fear. To write or speak the truth brings imprisonment or death. Lenin recognised the power of words and the danger they posed for totalitarian regimes.

‘Why should freedom of speech and freedom of press be allowed?’ he wrote. ‘Why
should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be
criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal
things than guns.’

We have every right in Australia to to be proud of having created a ‘Doughnut Nation’
and to congratulate ourselves on the lifting of pandemic restrictions. As writers, we can enjoy these freedoms and continue our happy, if impecunious, lives. You don’t need to worry whether writing and speaking the truth will bring a squad of Victoria Police knocking down the door of your study, poisoning you with nerve agents, or simply putting a bullet in the back of your head. Yet this is a daily reality for writers and others who speak out in dozens of countries around the world today.

As you gaze out of the window, deciding whether to use a comma or semi-colon, or
wander down to the kitchen to make a latté coffee, give a thought to others who don’t have the luxury of being the citizen of a democratic society. Remember the uncertain fate of brave Alexei Navalny. Remember Lucía Ubau, a journalist imprisoned in Nicaragua. Remember poet, Maung Saungkha persecuted by the government of Myanmar, Asli Erdogan exiled from Turkey, and hundreds of others attacked for telling the truth. To discover more about these writers and the work of PEN to support them, follow us on social media, visit our website, and become a member to campaign for their release.

 


Once upon a time . . .

Paul Morgan

Victorian Writer, PEN column
October 2020

Who doesn’t love a story? From ancient cave paintings to the latest novel or Netflix series, we have always been captivated by stories. The reasons go deeper than mere entertainment (not that I’m knocking the value of entertainment, especially this year). As Aristotle noted over 2,000 years ago, the ‘pretence’ of storytelling – portraying people and events that didn’t actually happen – is a profoundly important element of all human cultures. Why is that?

Experiencing the lockdown has been a reminder of the far worse situation of writers in prison for simply telling the truth. There is another form of imprisonment, however, that we never escape – solitary confinement within our own skulls. We are all utterly alone in our heads – however much we love or empathise with another person, we will never know what it is like to be someone else.

As Aristotle recognised, stories allows us to escape this prison for a while and learn from the experience. We can imagine how it feels to be a penniless orphan in Victorian Britain; a Greek soldier sulking in his tent before the walls of Troy, or a Japanese teenager lost in an alternative universe. Great Expectations, the Iliad, and IQ84 are all ‘untrue’. They are told by narrators pretending to be different people, about events that never really happened, and yet they are the lies that tell the truth. These different perspectives transport us into a kind of virtual reality in which we are warriors,
adventurers, criminals, people forced to make terrible choices, and an infinite number of other situations – all from the safety of our sofa.

We are never the same after reading a story. It gives an utterly different perspective on reality and relationships than the ‘solitary confinement’ of our own minds. We can never un-learn these lessons about how and why people think, feel, and act the way they do, ourselves included. Our lives are full of sliding doors – those ‘what if . . .’ moments – which stories allow us to experience vicariously.

For totalitarian regimes, this freedom of thought is the enemy. Around the world, in dozens of countries from China to Iran, writers are imprisoned for years, solely for using their imagination. They don’t need to be critical of the regime; it is sufficient crime to ask that dangerous question, ‘what if . . ?’ And if people start to wonder about different ways of seeing the world, then the regime’s entire narrative of society is in danger of cracking and give way.

PEN International was not established as a political organisation. Our mission is to campaign for the right of all writers to express themselves, to exercise their imagination, and to speak the truth. If totalitarian regimes regard that simple freedom as a political act, then so be it!

Taking part in PEN International campaigns is a practical and straightforward way in which all of us can express support for fellow-writers persecuted for telling stories that dictators do not want to be heard. You can be part of this struggle by joining the Melbourne PEN Centre and supporting our work.

 


 

The politics of writing

Paul Morgan

Victorian Writer, PEN column
August 2020

 

In This Country, We Can Only Hibernate

Winter arrives too early.
Our trees begin to wither.
We no longer have the nutrients to offer them;
Our dark hair slowly freezes to white
In the snows of passing time.
Our skin is like chapped fields.
Winter is here,
We all love to hibernate.
Our hearts are tired
Our blood is tired,
We nestle beneath the snow to hibernate.

Is this a political poem? Despite being a translation, the lines retain a cool lyrical beauty. It reminds me of Rilke. The landscape and people become one. They are ‘our trees’ yet ‘our dark hair’ turns white like the land under snow. While we feel the cold, the poet writes, it is the fields which are chapped like our skin. The only option is to hibernate. There is acceptance but also a quiet will to awaken again when the time comes.

As well as describing winter, the poem evokes a melancholic mood that might relate to lost love, to feeling depressed, or simply to the passing of time – enduring with dignity and waiting for a hard season to pass. The lines were written by Chinese poet, Li Bifeng. Imprisoned after the Tiananmen Square protest, he has spent much of the past 30 years in prison. This immediately changes how we read the poem. It evokes the Chinese people surviving under a totalitarian government. The poem itself hasn’t changed, of course. A political interpretation does not stop it being lyrical. A good work of art is like a prism, with multiple interpretations which do not cancel
each other out

But for totalitarian governments, everything is political. Any writing which displays
independent thought is suspect. (In China, even Winnie the Pooh is banned, as the little bear resembles leader, Xi Jinping.)

PEN International was founded with a commitment to freedom of expression but ‘no politics’. With the rise of fascism, PEN realised this was a naively idealistic position, condemned the Nazi book burnings, and campaigned against the persecution of writers in Germany. Ever since, it has spoken out against tyrannical regimes and supported imprisoned writers.

In a sense, authoritarian leaders have always know the truth: everything is indeed political. Politics permeates and affects every part of life. Writers cannot claim to ‘be above it’. Free speech is part of the Liberal Project of individual rights which began in the seventeenth century and received a fillip in the post-1945 era. We cannot pretend political differences do not exist or simply blank them out. As Nick Cave recently wrote, ‘refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas has an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society’. It is our duty to engage with them, and to defend other writers
who do so at great cost to themselves, sometimes at the cost of their lives.

At PEN Melbourne, our sole focus is this fight to defend these writers who speak the truth.

 

New Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne

 

Nedim’s story

Nedim Türfent is a Kurdish journalist and poet. He was imprisoned in 2016 after publicising police harassment of workers in south-east Turkey.

Jackie Mansourian, Co-convenor of PEN Melbourne’s Writers-in-Prison program, explains how Nedim Türfent became an Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne:

In January 2020 Nedim Türfent wrote his first card to us. We were moved by his compassion and concern about the bushfires at that time: ‘I’m so sorry about [the] massive forest fires in Australia. Please feel my aching heart. Thank you for your letters. We are at one-heart’.

Later that year, PEN Melbourne members wrote cards to him during our annual card-writing gathering. As I wrote, I reflected on his circumstances. He had been in imprisoned since the age of 26 and the first two years were in solitary confinement. I have children of the same age. I thought of them. The pain of imagining them, like Nedim, being treated with such cruelty and disregard was unbearable. I told him that we knew of his circumstances, and were committed to working for his freedom.

Nedim replied personally to everyone who wrote to him. We were touched and challenged by this response, and made the commitment to invite Nedim to be a PEN Melbourne Honorary Member. Nedim has accepted our invitation. This means that PEN Melbourne will work purposefully and with many others, for his release. We will also help amplify awareness of his writings. Whilst in prison he has written a collection of poetry in Turkish, Kuş Aynası. Imagine the small mirror that people with budgerigars put in the cage for the birds’ own self-entertainment.

‘The Soul and the Beast,’ published here, has been translated from Nedim’s collection by Turkish-Australian poet, Hidayet Ceylan. Full details, including the original text in Turkish, are available at penmelbourne.org. It has been a complex process of dialogue about the translation, as we discuss the meanings and interpretations, without the presence and affirmation of the poet himself. Please read the poem, find out about Nedim’s circumstances, join our work for Nedim, and write to him in solidarity.

“Kendi iblislerimiziz, kendimizi cennetimizden ediyoruz.”

“We are our own devils; we are expelling ourselves from our heaven”

                                                                                                                                                                        Goethe

 

CAN VE CANAVAR

THE SOUL AND THE BEAST

Kimim ben

Who am I?

Bir dünya rengim var, sesim, dilim

I have a world of colours, voices, languages

Türlü türlü huyum…

And all sorts of natures…

Mazlum da benim, zalim de

I am the oppressor and the oppressed

ölen de, öldüren de…

I am the murdered and the murderer…

Tut kelin perçeminden!

Grab the curly hair of the bald man.

 

Ben Oblomov kadar tembel

I am as lazy as Oblomov

Kozet kadar sefil, pejmürde

I am as miserable and shabby as Kozet

Dewrêşê Ewdî kadar fedakarım.

I am as self-sacrificing as Dewrêşê Ewdî.

Harikalar Diyarı’nda Alice’im

I am Alice in Wonderland

Kimi zaman Don Kişot olurum

I sometimes become Don Quixote

Kimi zaman Boby Sands,

Sometimes Bobby Sands,

Ama bir yanım hep çocuktur

But one side of me is always a child

Şeker Portakalı’ndaki Zeze kadar yaramazdır

And as naughty as Zeze in My Sweet Orange Tree

Bir yanım da olgundur,

Another side of me is mature,

Kürek mahkumu Kelebek kadar

Persistent, determined. A combatant.

İnatçı, azimli ve mücadeleci…

Like Papillon and the galley slave…

 

Riyad’da burka giyerim zoraki,

I wear the burqa by force in Riyadh

Kiev’de Femen olurum.

I become Femen in Kiev

Kanberra’da anamın rahminden kurtulur

I am freed from my mother’s womb in Canberra

Moskova’da beşik beşik yatarım…

I sleep in many cradles in Moscow…

Dubai’de adımbaşı gökdelenlerde, Kore’deki bir kafeste,

I live in sky scrapers on every corner in Dubai, in a cage in Korea

Budapeşte’de tarihle iç içe, Saraybosna’da yeraltında,

I am embedded with history in Budapest, in underground shelters in Sarajevo

Amazon ormanlarının derinliğinde yaşarım…

I live deep in the Amazon jungle…

Dublin’de kütüphane ve müze,

I wander the library and museum in Dublin,

Sana’da mezar mezar dolaşırım!

each of the graves in Sana’a

Tokyo’da bir yüzyıl yaşarım, bir asır,

I live as old as one hundred years, a century in Japan

Bağdat’ta ergenliği görsem, ne mutlu bana!

If I reach adolescence in Baghdad, how happy I am!

 

Bir yanım şairdir, beriki katil, asker,

One part of me is a poet, another part is a murderer, a soldier

Para babasıyım New York’ta

I am filthy rich in New York

Burada proleterya, şurada parya

Here the proletariat, there the pariah

Yoksul ve yoksunum…

I am poor and I am deprived….

Kapitalistim ve komüncü

I am a capitalist and I am a communist

Katalonya’da devrimci, Madrit’te statükocuyum.

I am a revolutionary in Catalonia, defend the status quo in Madrid

Glasgow’da saksafon çalarım, yaşım 60,

I play saxophone in Glasgow, I am 60 years old

Kabil’de ekmek çalarım yaşım 6!

I steal bread in Kabul and I am 6 years old!

Anlayacağınız

As you can see

Ottawa’da obeziteden

I die from obesity in Ottawa

Mogadişu’da açlıktan ölürüm…

from hunger in Mogadishu…

 

Buenos Aires’te Plaza de Mayo annesiyim;

I am a mother of Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires

Latin Amerika’da bir gerillayım

I am a guerilla in Latin America

Uzak Doğu’da bilim insanıyım

I am a scientist in the Far East

Yakın Asya’da ilim ve irfan…

Knowledge and wisdom bearer in the Near East…

Adımı ister Sofie koyun,

Whether you name me Sophie,

İsterseniz Mefisto, ya da Sysphus;

Or Mephisto, or Sisyphus;

Yüreğim bazen Mirabel kardeşlerini kadar kocamandır.

My heart is sometimes as big as the Mirabal sisters.

İstanbul’da Hrant Dink gibi tedirgin olurum.

I become as anxious as Hrant Dink in İstanbul.

Auschwitz’deki adımı sorarsanız, Elie Wiesel.

If you ask my name in Auschwitz, it is Elie Wiesel.

Kobanêli Aylan Kurdî’yim, denizin kıyısına değil

I am Aylan Kurdi from Kobane, I have not hit the shore 

Nasır tutan vicdanınıza tokat gibi vurulmuşum

My dead body has slapped your calloused conscience

 

Christchurch’te fanatik bir dinci vuruyor beni,

A fanatic fundamentalist shoots me in Christchurch,

Suriye’de F bilmem-ne-tipi savaş uçağı…

An F-whatever type of fighter jet in Syria…

Firavunun pençesinde bir Filistinli

I am a Palestinian under the claw of a Pharaoh

Führer’in toynaklarında bir Yahudiyim.

I am a Jew under the hooves of Führer.

Fakat Firavun da benim, Führer de!

I am both Pharaoh and Führer!

Demokles’in kılıcını da ben taşırım, Brutus de benim.

I carry the sword of Damocles, I am Brutus as well.

Zorba ve tiranım bazı bazı

From time to time I am a despot and a tyrant

Tokmak elimde, silah belimde

Hammer in my hand and gun on my belt

İşgal ve ilhak ederim

I invade and annex   

Sözümona demokrasi ve özgürlük taşırım

I carry a so-called freedom and democracy

Esasında kolonilerde teröristler yaratırım…

In fact, I create terrorists in the colonies…

 

Pekin’de çekik gözlüyüm

I am Chinese in Beijing 

Akra’da kapkara…

I am African in Accra…

Kızılderiliyim beyaz tenli.

I am First Nations in America.

Erivanlıyım, Rojavalıyım, Myanmarlıyım…

I am from Yerevan, I am from Rojova, I am from Myanmar…

Maorice ve Kürtçe konuşurum

I speak Maori and Kurdish

Ruanda’daki dilimi Fransa’ya sorun!

Ask France my language in Rwanda!

Dört bir tarafta ben varım, yerde ve gökte.

I am present at every corner, on the ground and in the sky.

Hollywood ile Bollywood arasında mekik dokurum.

I travel back and forth between Hollywood and Bollywood

Tüm canlıların tanrı ve tanrıçasıyım!

I am the God and Goddess of all living beings!

Ulusu, devleti yoktan var ederim,

I create the Nation and the State from nothing,

O gelip beni vardan yok eder…

They come and exterminate my existence…

 

Sadist ve narsistim, isim günüm meçhul

I am a sadist and narcissist, my name is obscure

Kilise, camii ve sinagogdan çıkar

As I leave the church, mosque and synagogue

Hades’in müdavimi, Nirvana’nın yolcusu olurum…

I am inured to Hades, I enter the path to Nirvana…

Duvarlarınıza çarpan bir mülteciyim

I am a refugee crashing your walls

Kim Phuc çıplaklığında koşarım barbarlıktan…

I escape the barbarism in the nakedness of Kim Phuc…

Geleceğin savunucusu Greta Thunberg

I become Greta Thunberg, the defender of the future

Yaşamın koruyucusu Nadya Murad olurum…

Nadya Murad, the protector of life…

İsviçre’ye yurttaş adayıyım,

I am a candidate for citizenship to Switzerland,

Ülkemin kirpikleri yaşlı ve kanlı…

The eyelashes of my country awash with blood and tears…

Kan akıtan, cana kıyan da benim…

I am the one who sheds blood and murders…

Can da, canavar da benim…

I am both the soul and the beast…

 

Bir avuç soğuk su çal yüzüne,

Splash a handful of cold water on your face,

Kimim ben?

Who am I?

Yeryüzünde cennetle cehennemi birlikte var eden,

I am the one who creates the Heaven and Hell on Earth together

Aydınlığın ve karanlığın bekçisiyim!

I am the gate-keeper of the light and the darkness!

İnsanım ben, insanın ta kendisiyim…

I am a human being, I am the human being…

İçim dışım çelişki, ne yaman çelişki.

My interior, my exterior is a contradiction, such a thorough contradiction.

Nedim’i mektupsuz, selamsız bırakmayalım!

Do not leave Nedim without a letter and without a greeting!

Nedim Türfent
Van Yüksek Güvenlikli Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
A-44
VAN – TÜRKİYE

The poem is available as a broadsheet pdf here:

nedim_broadsheet6


 

 

Excerpt from Nedim’s Open letter to the winds of injustice
Van Prison. 14 April 2021, 1,800th day of imprisonment:

Words fly by in my head. Meanwhile, I can barely put two syllables together. My pen has been becalmed for hours. The ink no longer flows, as if my pen had been weaned . . .

 

I must tell you frankly that had I been told five years ago, ‘you will be held in prison for years, for having practiced alternative journalism,’ I would have moved along and laughed in your face. Never would I have imagined that the Law and our rights could be trampled this badly. Like a shuttle constantly moving backward and forward between acceptance and habituation, we are transformed into this object weaving the net we thought impossible, undoable. And that is the worst of it. Today we accept silently, as if they were ordinary, all these things that, no more than five years ago, would have set fire to the greatest of indignations. We collapse in our armchairs, settle into our echo chambers, and we wish a long life to the snake that does not strike us . . .

 

This pencil is one of the stories on which the vice of persecution tested its teeth. In 2015 in Y¸ksekova, a town smack on the borders of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, Turkish special forces made a group of Kurdish construction workers lie naked on the ground and shouted, ‘You will see the strength of the Turk!’ I relayed this infamy and an inquiry was opened against these policemen. But shortly thereafter, the voice of revenge reached my ears. Attacks using tear gas, rubber bullets, surveillance, aggressions, death threats, then arrest, torture during custody and, finally, on 13 May 2016, incarceration. . . All of the 19 witnesses for the prosecution described torture while in custody . . . one of the witnesses declared: ‘the policemen told me: if you don’t sign this document, we will pull out your teeth with pliers.’

 

Please, consider this open letter as ‘representative’ of situations. In this framework, justice is demanded for all. In solidarity and with the pencil’s resistance, before its lead is broken.

 

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
www.kedistan.net/2021/05/03/nedim-turfent-open-letter-injustice

 

 

Write to Nedim
Van Yüksek Güvenlikli Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
A-44 VAN – TURKEY


June 27, 2021

PEN Melbourne is proud to have Nedim Türfent as our Honorary Member.

We have recently received confirmation from Nedim from his prison in Van, Turkey, and through the broader PEN International network, that he welcomes his membership to PEN Melbourne.

Nedim is a journalist, editor and poet.

He was detained in May 2016 after reporting on Turkish special forces’ ill-treatment of Turkish and Kurdish workers, in south-east Turkey. He published footage of this treatment and immediately began receiving death threats from the police and became the target of online harassment. He was detained in solitary confinement. He was 26 years old. Ten months later he was formally charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’.

In his trial beginning in June 2017, he was denied the right to appear in court physically.  However, 19 of the 20 prosecution witnesses retracted their statements, saying they had been extracted under torture. In December, 2017 he was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison. This verdict has been upheld twice. But Nedim’s lawyers have appealed further.

While waiting for his appeal, Nedim has been studying, English, German and writing poetry.

He is also a generous writer of letters. During PEN Melbourne’s end- of- year card writing to imprisoned writers in December 2020, many members wrote to Nedim. He has since written cards in return to each writer, in gratitude, and with powerful messages that affirm ‘freedom for words’.

If you would like to join PEN Melbourne’s actions in solidarity with Nedim, please contact us at wip@penmelbourne.org

And join the call for Nedim Türfent’s release on social media – #FreeNedim

One of Nedim’s first poems translated into many languages

Let my heart give life –  Nedim Türfent

Your heart has become the earth
let it give elixir into the veins
bring fertility to the soil
from the springs behind the mountain Qaf.
let the benevolence of the crops
be the silver key to life.
let your heart soothe
the farmer
the peasant
the day laborer
the distressed

let it massage the broken wings of birds
with ointments
let it grant refuge
to the ants, working collectively, in solidarity
let heart fill with generosity
giving butterflies an extra day of life
let it be a lifeline
like the womb   

let your heart be crystal clear
as clear as water
let it give life to the lifeless.

 

Translation by Barış Altıntaş, Media and Law Studies Association (MSLA)

https://pen-international.org/news/let-my-heart-give-life-english

 

 

First published here: https://medyavehukuk.org/en/800-days-behind-bars-nedim-turfent-van-prison

 

———————————————————————————————————————-
Nedim Türfent

New Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne

PEN Melbourne has nominated imprisoned Kurdish writer Nedim Türfent as an Honorary Member, and we are pleased that Nedim has accepted.

Nedim Türfent is a journalist and poet currently imprisoned in Turkey. In December 2017, more than 18 months after his arrest, Türfent was handed an eight-year-and-nine-month prison sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges. He has now spent more than 1,500 days in detention.  Naming Nedim as an honorary member means that PEN Melbourne will energetically prosecute his case and continue our correspondence with him.

If you would like to join our work with Nedim Türfent please contact our Writers in Prison Team.

PEN Melbourne members have written to Nedim on several occasions since his arrest, and we have received spirited and enthusiastic replies written from his prison cell. Here is a letter we received earlier this year.

—————————————————————————————————

TURKEY: ACTION Write to Selahattin Demirtaş

International PEN Melbourne Centre

ACTION

TURKEY

WRITE to Selahattin Demirtaş, a writer in prison

Throughout the year PEN Melbourne members and friends write to persecuted writers in prison around the world.

We send our best wishes, and our hopes that they are staying well and in good spirits.

We do this in the spirit of solidarity and to let them know that they are not alone and not forgotten.

We try by this means to allow a light into their lives in prison.

The letters are not political, but a gesture of friendship and a way of connecting across the cultural divides.

 

Send a letter to show solidarity with prominent Kurdish politician and writer Selahattin Demirtaş.

Writer and opposition politician Selahattin Demirtaş turned 48 on Saturday 10 April – the fifth birthday he has spent behind bars and away from his loved ones.

Demirtaş has been held in pre-trial detention for over four years, on dubious terrorism charges. The European Court of Human Rights twice ruled for his release, to no avail.

It is time that Turkey abides by its obligations under international law and release Demirtaş once and for all.

 

Backround information:

Former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş was arrested on 4 November 2016 on dubious terrorism charges. The Turkish authorities have so far failed to implement a landmark ruling of the European Court of Human Rights issued in November 2018, which found his detention to be politically motivated and ordered his immediate release – a call reiterated by the Court’s Grand Chamber in December 2020.

PEN International calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Please send messages of solidarity to:

Mr Selahattin Demirtaş

Edirne F Tipi CİK B1-38

EDİRNE

TURKEY

 

We encourage anyone with a love of writing and literature to join PEN Melbourne. We are an entirely voluntary and not-for-profit organisation and our members sustain and bring vitality to our work.

Fundraiser for PEN Myanmar. Readings by and with Myanmarese writers and poets. Saturday 22 May 2021, 2pm LaMama Courthouse 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Poets for Myanmar: 111 Days of Protest

Fundraiser for PEN Myanmar.
Readings by and with Myanmarese writers and poets.

Saturday 22 May 2021, 2pm
LaMama Courthouse
349 Drummond St, Carlton

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/poets-for-myanmar111-days-of-protest-tickets-154346331031?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=estw&utm-source=tw&utm-term=listing

 

 

International PEN Melbourne Centre

 

MYANMAR

 

International PEN Melbourne Centre condemns the Myanmar Military Regime’s deadly use of force against its own citizens including poets and journalists since the coup of 1 February 2021. The Military junta has ramped up surveillance of opponents and arrests, including of journalists, writers, and creative artists; and increased violence against protesters. The junta has brought in legal measures and emergency powers to silence and intimidate and to justify its human rights abuses.

Intentional and ongoing internet shutdowns have severely diminished journalists’ ability to do their jobs on the ground.

“When a government turns off the internet, it means that it knows the truth is its enemy.”

We call for the immediate release of all detained journalists.  The junta must cease these violent attacks on press freedom, the silencing of its opponents and the brutal murders of citizens. PEN urges the junta to reinstate the elected government and to respect the fundamental rights of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and rightful access to information.

On 6 April Myanmar’s most famous satirist and an outspoken critic of the military regime, Maung Thura (known publicly as Zarganar) was reportedly arrested at his home and taken to an undisclosed location by junta forces.

 

PEN condemns his arrest and the targeting of media figures by the military junta and we continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested following the military coup.

Statement from PEN Myanmar: 17th March, 2021

Since the Myanmar military seized power from the elected government on 1 February, millions of people across the nation have protested against this illegitimate regime. The demonstrations have brought the young and old out onto the streets. The creativity of their protests has garnered worldwide attention.

Actors, directors, musicians, artists, poets and writers have all lent their talents to strengthen the movement that we call Myanmar‘s Spring Revolution. We have voiced out and performed online and on the street. Myanmar people have called for respect for our votes, release of our leaders, and an end to military dictatorship.

For the last two or three weeks, the military – which refuses to negotiate a solution, in defiance of the wishes of the international community, including the UN Security Council – has clamped down violently on peaceful demonstrators, including shooting them in the head with live rounds. Democratic leaders have been taken away, and their tortured bodies returned to their families. Armed soldiers wander the streets of our cities at night, shooting at random, terrorizing the residents. None of us is safe.

Myanmar’s artistic community has been at the vanguard of these protests: some have been killed and many others arrested. PEN Melbourne is not printing names as there is fear of retribution in Myanmar.

PEN Myanmar has said:

“We know that the situation must ultimately be solved by the people of Myanmar. But we call on the international community to do what they can to support us in our fight for democracy. As creative professionals from Myanmar, we call on our creative brothers and sisters across the world, and from all artistic communities, to stand up and show solidarity with us in our struggle and support those in need!”

Do you want to take Action for Myanmar?

PEN Myanmar and PEN Melbourne suggest that you:

  1. Write to the Australian Government and;

 

  • Urge the Australian government to continue its initial condemnation of the violent attacks on civilians in Myanmar
  • Request the Australian government not to recognise the military regime known as State Administrative Council but to recognise the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Assembly of the Union (CRPH) as the only leading authority of people of Myanmar.

 

Write your letter of concern to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

Senator the Hon Marise Payne

 

Email: senator.payne@aph.gov.au

Parliament Office

PO Box 6100
Senate
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Electorate Office

Postal address

PO Box 1420
Parramatta, NSW, 2150

 

  1. Spread the news and information widely about what’s going on in Myanmar to your networks and the general public.

Follow on TWITTER

#SaveMyanmar

#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar

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