|Subject: CT: Activists Fined in Canberra
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000
The Canberra Times April 13, 2000, Thursday Edition
ACTIVISTS FINED FOR PARLIAMENT GRAFFITI PROTEST
Despite the " admirable commitment" of four East Timor independence activists to a " compelling cause" , their actions during a protest at Parliament House were illegal, Magistrate Karen Fryar said yesterday. Former United Nations volunteer in East Timor Gareth William Robert Smith was found guilty of trespassing and damaging Commonwealth property, and Mark William Gwynneth, Robert Samsa and Charlo David Grech were each found guilty of trespassing.
The charges related to an incident on September 10 when the men made their way to the roof of the great veranda of Parliament House. They hung a protest banner on the coat of arms.
Smith had told the court that while there, he had seen school children in the foyer who reminded him of children he had left behind in East Timor and, " he then decided that he wanted to do something outrageous to match the outrageous situation in East Timor and to get maximum publicity" .
He remembered a can of spray paint in his backpack, and used it to paint the words " Shame Australia shame" on the building. Magistrate Fryar said there was " no reason to question the integrity of the defendants" but they should have acted within the law.
" Their concern and anguish at the plight of the East Timorese people following the referendum in August last year was, I have no doubt, genuine and indeed, understandable," she said.
" Their commitment to their cause to support the East Timorese people in their quest for independence is even admirable. But they must pursue that cause within the law.
" We can all agree that the cause they were supporting was most compelling and clearly the defendants felt that the steps they took were morally justified.
" However, the courts and the community cannot condone breaches of the law simply for
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