Picketers from numerous organisations supporting Wikileaks and Julian Assange sought to challenge Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon on her arrival at the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association’s Regional Law Conference (CLARLC) in Sydney, Australia on Friday 20 April 2012.
Ms Roxon addressed the Conference on “The Rule of Law and the Commonwealth Principles – Terrorism, Emergency Laws and Human Rights.”
But most attendees and the Australian media and public public had signalled that they were more interested to hear her explain why London-based, Australian human rights lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, was apprehended at Heathrow Airport and initially prevented from boarding her flight to address the same conference. And why Ms Robinson has been placed on a restricted travel list. And by whom.
Ms Robinson said she was informed by officials at London’s Heathrow Airport that she must have done something “controversial” to have been listed on a so-called, “inhibited persons” list that required Airport officials to contact the Australian Embassy before she could be allowed to board her flight to Australia, her home country. Ms Robinson immediately raised the alarm using Twitter to demand an explanation from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
It has been suggested that Ms Robinson has been targeted by Australian, British and American security services because she is a legal adviser to WikiLeaks and has represented WikiLeaks journalist Julian Assange, as well as the USA’s Corporal Bradley Manning, who stands accused of supplying classified military material to WikiLeaks.
Assange has today been detained in Britain for 500 days, and Bradley Manning has been held without charge in the USA for almost 700 days – contravening the US constitutional limit of 120 days.
The legal community in Australia is in uproar at the apparent harassment of a lawyer simply for representing causes and clients that are unfashionable in government circles in the USA, Britain and Australia. It is ironic that Attorney General Roxon’s address to the Conference concerned the rule of law and human rights. In response to a question from Jennifer Robinson on another issue, the Attorney General expressed her dismay, in passing, at the events that almost prevented Ms Robinson from attending the Conference. Without elaborating, she indicated that it was not a government initiative to harass Ms Robinson. In response to media questions at the conclusion of the session Ms Roxon could not throw more light on the matter.
At the conclusion of the session a cheerful Ms Robson left the Convention Centre to shake hands and speak with the group of peaceful protesters, some in their seventies and eighties and concerned at the erosion of civil liberties – including those of local hero Julian Assange. Earlier in the day a group of protesters caused disruption in the foyer of the Convention Centre before being ejected. Police later arrived and took statements on the steps outside the Convention Centre. There were no incidents and the events both inside and outside the Conference proceeded quietly.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has denied any knowledge of an “inhibited persons list,” and has been urged to make inquiries of its counterparts in Britain to establish the grounds on which a distinguished Australian lawyer was subjected to something akin to America’s controversial “no fly list.”
Australia’s new foreign minister, Bob Carr, who has been an enthusiastic commentator on everything from drug rehabilitation to issuing threats in error to neighbouring countries since he took office a month ago – has been uncharacteristically mute throughout the drama so far.
It is clear that this story will continue to develop over coming weeks.
For more photos of the protest and the original text go here.Related: Popular: