War on dissent: anti-terrorism laws must be defeated

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Fantasy becomes reality. The plot of the movie, Minority Report, was that crime was so out of control in a future world that people could be arrested as “pre-criminals.” Faheem Lohdi, a Pakistani-Australian and Muslim, is unjustly held in the psychological management unit at Goulburn jail. He had some maps, videos, DVDs and handwritten notes about so-called “bomb recipes,” all of which are freely available. He also downloaded photographs from Google Earth, he ordered some chemicals and he lied to a phone company. All of which were used in an openly racist manner by the prosecution, which based its case on the presumption that Lohdi must be a potential terrorist because he is a Muslim man of colour and therefore fits the profile of what the State calls “violent Jihad.” Lohdi maintains his innocence, which is undeniable, because he stands convicted for what he might have been thinking and because of who he is. It’s a witchhunt in every sense. Faheem Lohdi may very well hold fundamentalist religious beliefs. But he’s entitled to. Freedom of thought and speech are fundamental democratic rights.

Jack Thomas is not, currently, in maximum security. His fragile psychological state led a court to order that his jail conditions be eased. Jack’s crime was to accept an offer of money from a member of “Al Qaeda” for his fare home and to tinker with his passport in an attempt to avoid the vicious State attack that allowed evidence gathered under torture to be used against him. Jack travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan and visited a “terrorist training camp,” possibly a fundamentalist school at which he saw, but did not interact with, Osama bin Laden. On his return he settled down, like any Aussie working class bloke, to raise a family and buy a home. But Jack is a Muslim and, therefore, according to the State, a potential terrorist. He went to places the government did not want him to. On trumped-up charges, he was tried and sentenced to five years in jail. Freedom of movement and of religion are fundamental democratic rights.

Guantanamo Bay is a vile concentration camp, where hundreds of people of colour and, so far as is known, one white man, David Hicks, are held at the whim of George W. Bush in conditions of torture. The Australian Government wants Hicks kept there, without charge, precisely because he is innocent of any crime under Australian law. He, too, went to places the government did not want him to; he associated with the Taliban government, a reactionary regime that might just have had something to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Hicks is a political prisoner, not for his own beliefs, but because his baseless imprisonment suits both Bush and Howard in their battle to turn all of us into corporate slaves with no rights. Hicks and every other person in Guantanamo must be freed – now. Freedom from arbitrary detention and torture are fundamental democratic rights.

Organise to defend civil liberties. Last December, the increasingly dictatorial Executive Council of the Australian Government acted to list the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist organisation. The effect of this is to place tens of thousands of Australian citizens, not just of Kurdish and Turkish origin, at risk. Many people supported, and continue to support, the demand of the Kurdish nation for its own homeland. When the State turns its attention to domestic dissent, as it inevitably will, many of us face the possibility of retrospective guilt by association. This isn’t a war on terror, it’s a war on democratic rights: rights won over centuries of struggle by oppressed people across the planet. It’s well past the time where the Howard Government needs to be reminded that it does not rule us. As the trailer for another recent movie, V, declares: “The People should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of the People.”

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