Thursday, 20 March 2008

Terror trial halted over prison conditions

A Supreme Court judge has put a Melbourne terrorism trial on hold and ordered Corrections Victoria to change prison conditions of the 12 accused men.

Justice Bernard Bongiorno has ruled the onerous conditions are having such an affect on the men that their trial is unfair.

It is the first time a judge has made such a ruling in Victoria.

Justice Bongiorno has asked for the men to be moved from a high security unit at Barwon Prison to a remand prison in Melbourne by March the 31st.

Quote: This trial is unfair right from the very start of the police investigation. These people should be free men but they're being mistreated in prison and vilified by the mainstream media. The charges they're subject to are draconian and extremely unfair.

In his ruling, Justice Bongiorno accepted the 12 men were already suffering psychiatric problems that affected their ability to follow proceedings. A continuation of the treatment was likely to affect their ability to defend themselves, he said.

The men have been held in the high security Acacia wing of Barwon Prison, near Geelong, since their arrest two years ago.

To attend court they must travel for up to two hours to Melbourne each day, and two hours back, shackled and handcuffed, are strip-searched twice, and have little time outside their cells.

Justice Bongiorno ordered that the men be transferred to the Metropolitan Assessment Prison in central Melbourne, that they be transported directly to court each day, and be allowed out of their cells for 10 hours each day when not in court. They were not to be shackled or restrained other than by handcuffs while in transit, nor strip-searched after returning from court, and were to be treated as ordinary remand prisoners.

The prisoners have the highest security rating in Victoria. The judge told Victoria's Department of Justice to make the changes by March 31 or the trial would be stayed indefinitely and he would consider releasing them on bail.

The accused, who have all pleaded not guilty, are: Abdul Nacer Benbrika, 47; Abdullah Merhi, 22; Shane Kent, 31; Majed Raad, 23; Aimen Joud, 23; Ahmed Raad, 24; Fadl Sayadi, 28; Ezzit Raad, 26; Hany Taha; Shoue Hammoud, 28; Bassam Raad, 26; and Amer Haddara, 28.

These people were entrapped in an ASIO fishing expedition for the John Howard government and used as scapegoats for the alleged 'war on terror' but really western imperialism and an oil resource war.

Let them all go free they've done nothing but think and at the very least they should be released on bail immediately.

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