The following sequence of emails and letters illustrates not only the threat posed to Australians by the Rudd government’s draconian laws against political activism (inherited with minimal change from the Howard regime), but, what is more sinister, the links between Rudd’s political police and the shady functionaries of one of the world’s most corrupt, repressive and belligerent states, Colombia.

The story is not over. You can add to it by expressing your concern and by trying to get a clear, intelligible and humane response from the relevant Federal Government ministers.

It started back in Sepember 2009, and the articles and letter here provide the background.

Then, in early February 2010, the following:

Dear comrade,
 
I received this email this morning from Alejandro Rodriguez who is an Argentine-Australian activist in solidarity movements with Latin America, and is a member of the ASU.
 
He was elected last year to the Committee which governs the SEARCH Foundation of which I am currently President.  
 
In view of the union movement’s previous sponsorship of tours, advocacy and fundraising for Colombian unionists this interview is relevant to us all.
 
Attached is correspondence from NSW CFMEU Secretary Andrew Ferguson raising concerns with the Minister for Home affairs about reports on the arrest of Liliany Obando, a Colombian unionist, which puts this AFP action in context.  
 
BHP Billiton is the principal link between the Australian and the Colombian Governments.  Last year I participated in a protest at BHP Billiton offices in Collins St against the company’s role in Colombia attended by a number of union speakers and representatives.
 
The AEU and Education International have previously assisted teacher unionists under threat from government-backed death squads in Colombia which holds 7,000 political prisoners.
 
Alejandro met yesterday with Angelo Gavrielatos, AEU Federal President, who asked to be kept informed and undertook to publicise the case.   
 
Alejandro is being advised and represented by prominent lawyer Rob Starry. I have offered to accompany him to the interview if he wishes.
 
I will keep you posted.  After all, as the saying goes, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance!
 
Rob Durbridge    
 
 
 
From: Alejandro Rodriguez
Sent: Tuesday, 2 February 2010 6:36 AM
b To:
Subject: AFP interview

 
Hi All,
u8232 I was contacted today by the AFP, they have told me that they want an interview, that I have no choice but to attend an interview at the AFP building on Wednesday at 5pm. Colombia solidarity was mentioned as the reason for the interview. They asked if I had been to any events or meetings.
 

have sought legal advice from Rob Starry and he will be acompanying me to the interview.
 
 
his is obviosly a politicaly motivated campain originating with the Fascist Colombian Government and their US backers to deflect attention away from the atrocities being committed in Colombia by this death squad government. I urge everyone to increase their efforts to denounce the Colombian Government, the US and Australia’s involvement in Colombia. The application of antiterror laws to suppress free speach and international solidarity are a violation of International Law and UN conventions that Australia has signed. The abolotion of these laws is something we should all work towards.
 
I ask you all to contact your networks to highlight the injust use of these injust laws.

Alejandro reported after the interview, as follows:

4 Feb. 2010
Dear Comrades,
Yesterday at 5pm I was interviewed by the Australian Federal Police about solidarity with Colombia. I was not given a choice about participating in this interview. They asked me about Peace and Justice for Colombia, they asked me to say if I recognised or knew any of a series of names that they presented to me. They also asked me about The Agricultural Workers Union of Colombia (FENSUAGRO), if I had sent any money to them or supported them.
To all these questions I answered that my legal advice is to not comment on any question. The AFP also told me that this investigation was generated from information that they received from Colombian National Police specifically from the computers that were captured in Ecuador from the camp of Raul Reyes.
Why is the AFP using information that was illegally obtained, violating the sovereignty of Ecuador and killing 25 innocent people in the process? Why is the AFP aiding the Fascist Government of Colombia that systematically displaces, tortures and kills its own people like no other government in the world at the moment. Colombia has over 4 million internally displaced, tens of thousands of disappeared and tens of thousands more killed by the state, including 838 union members and officials from 2000 to 2008?
In the last Senates estimates committee, Senator Scott Ludlum asked clear questions to the AFP over involvement of the AFP in Colombia, especially their dealing with Colombian Intelligence officials who have since been implicated in the trafficking of cocaine to Australia. We are yet to get a response on these issues.
So while information on Colombian security agency officials sending cocaine into Australia has had no consequence to date, Australian activists are harassed, interrogated, followed and bugged for speaking out against the Colombian regime.
We call on the Federal Government to stop using the AFP as a political tool and to put Australian people ahead of the interests of fascist regimes such as Colombia.
u8232 Alejandro Rodriguez

Following this, a number of concerned citizens wrote to the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Brendan O’Connor, along these lines:

Dear Minister,
I am writing to protest against a campaign being waged by the Australian Federal Police using counter-terrorism laws, against Mr Alejandro Rodriguez and other trade unionists who have been active in support of trade unions in Colombia in recent years.

Colombia is the worst country in the world for the political murders of trade union leaders. According to the International Trade Union Confederation,  49 were killed in 2008, and 838 killed between 2000 and 2008, and 95 per cent of the cases ‘unsolved’. Mr Rodriguez and other Australian unionists who have been trying to give support to the Colombian unions deserve support and not political persecution by the Australian Federal Police.

Mr Rodriguez has been directed by the AFP to present himself for questioning in Melbourne this afternoon, February 3, 2010.
This AFP campaign was revealed in an article in The Australian of September 19, 2009, by Bernard Lane, which reported that an AFP officer had visited a high-profile Colombian union leader, Ms Liliany Obando, imprisoned there, on September 2, 2009. The AFP officer was allowed to question Ms Obando without her lawyer being present, and without giving his correct identity. Ms Obando refused to answer any questions and protested at the visit.

Ms Obando had visited Australia in 2007 in her work as International Officer for FENSUAGRO, an agricultural workers trade union, during which she exposed the severe repression of the union movement and the very poor working conditions of the union members, and asked Australian trade unions to increase their protests and to develop their relationships with FENSUAGRO and other Colombian unions.

Ms Obando was arrested in 2008 and charged with ‘rebellion’ for allegedly raising funds in Australia and elsewhere for the rebel group FARC. She strenuously denies this.
I am deeply concerned that both the AFP and ASIO are involved in a completely bogus political crusade to suppress criticism of the Colombian government’s human rights record in Australia. This is a very serious abuse of the powers now provided under anti-terrorism laws to these two agencies.

I urge that you immediately review this matter and the general use of anti-terrorism laws for political persecution and censorship.

I urge the Australian government to publicly condemn the shocking extent of murders of trade union leaders in Colombia and refer the case to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and the United Nations Security Council since it is clear that the government of Colombia has failed to take action to apprehend the killers and put them on trial.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Thorne

These messages all received a stock reply, which can be perused here.
f1

Below is Max Bound’s response to this:

For publication “Mercury” Your Voice
In a recent communication to Federal Minister Brendon O’Connor I protested against the AFP abusing its power re Colombian trade union solidarity. My opening paragraphs were –
“I am writing to protest against a campaign being waged by the Australian Federal Police using counter-terrorism laws, against Mr Alejandro Rodriguez and other trade unionists who have been active in support of trade unions in Colombia in recent years.
Colombia is the worst country in the world for the political murders of trade union leaders. According to the International Trade Union Confederation,  49 were killed in 2008, and 838 killed between 2000 and 2008, and 95 per cent of the cases ‘unsolved’. Mr. Rodriguez and other Australian unionists who have been trying to give support to the Colombian unions deserve support and not political persecution by the Australian Federal Police.”
O’Connor’s reply to my concerns about the violation of the rights of an Australian citizen was “… I do not comment on AFP operational matters nor direct the AFP in its investigations” He then suggested I could make a complaint to the Ombudsman. This I have done and included the paragraphs quoted above and what follows.
Terrorism is politically-motivated violence against civilians and should be condemned. But to allow the use of Australian police to support the police persecution of trade union activists, in a country with the vile record mentioned briefly above is the opposite to acting against terrorism.
People were naturally frightened by the 9/11 attack and in 2003 the Howard Government gave the AFP and the spy agencies ASIO and ASIS free rein to go after alleged terrorists in Australia. When the laws were reviewed before their 3-year ‘sunset’, many people argued that they were too draconian, including the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Several court cases have demonstrated that this is the case.
These laws were passed in the atmosphere created by the 9/11 attacks by a past Australian Government that strongly supported the now widely reviled Bush administration in the USA. In his 2003 Book “DUDE where’s my Country” the American popular public figure and campaigner for democratic procedures, Michael Moore, asked several as yet unanswered questions of then President Bush.
The first of these questions was — “Is it true that the bin Ladens have had business relations with you and your family off and on for 25 years? “ Another unanswered question, from Michael Moore of Bush, was “Why did you allow a private Saudi jet to fly around the US in the days after September 11 and pick up members of the bin Laden family and then fly them out of the country without a proper investigation by the FBI?”
Yes we need to do all possible to stop acts of terrorism but trade unionists organising to win decent standards of work and life are NOT terrorists. Max Bound, 57/57 Cadbury Road, Claremont, Tasmania 7011 Telephone 62495265
Dear Commonwealth Ombudsman,      In a recent communication to Federal Minister Brendon O’Connor I protested against the  AFP abusing its power re Colombian trade union solidarity. ( Copy forwarded  in separate email. )   
My opening paragraphs were -   “I am writing to protest against a campaign being waged by the Australian Federal Police using counter-terrorism laws, against Mr Alejandro Rodriguez and other trade unionists who have been active in support of trade unions in Colombia in recent years.
Colombia is the worst country in the world for the political murders of trade union leaders. According to the International Trade Union Confederation,  49 were killed in 2008, and 838 killed between 2000 and 2008, and 95 per cent of the cases ‘unsolved’.  Mr. Rodriguez and other Australian unionists who have been trying to give support to the Colombian unions deserve support and not political persecution by the Australian Federal Police.”
 My concerns were that  anti-terrorism laws were being used  against peace loving and democratic rights activists who in the case of Mr Alejandro Rodriguez is an Australian citizen.  This in my view is not a mere matter of procedure in its narrow sense but a serious misuse of powers and one that holds real dangers for any Australian who believes in and acts for democratic rights. I am somewhat disturbed by the ministers light weight treatment of my complaint thus this communication which was, as you will see from his letter to me, encouraged and facilitated by the Minister himself. .( Copy of O’Connors letter attached)
Some background points I would like to make are:-        Terrorism is politically-motivated violence against civilians and should be condemned. But to allow the use of Australian police to support the police persecution of trade union activists, in a country with the vile record mentioned briefly above is the opposite to acting against terrorism.
  I recognise that people were naturally frightened by the 9/11 attack and that in 2003 the  Howard Government gave the AFP and the spy agencies ASIO and ASIS free rein to go after alleged terrorists in Australia. When the laws were reviewed before their 3-year ‘sunset’, many people argued that they were too draconian, including the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Several court cases have demonstrated that this is the case.
These laws were passed in the atmosphere created by the 9/11 attacks by a past Australian Government that strongly supported the now widely reviled Bush administration in the USA.    In his 2003 Book “DUDE where’s my Country”  the American popular public figure and campaigner for democratic procedures, Michael Moore, asked several as yet unanswered questions of  then President Bush.
The first of these questions was  — “Is it true that the bin Ladens have had business relations with you and your family off and on for 25 years? “  Another unanswered question, from Michael Moore of Bush, was “Why did you allow a private Saudi jet to fly around the US in the days after September 11 and pick up members of the bin Laden family and then fly them out of the country without a proper investigation by the FBI?”      
Yes we need to do all possible to stop acts of terrorism but trade unionists organising to win decent standards of work and life are NOT terrorists. 


Max Bound,

Claremont,

Tasmania 7011  

Now We the People (Tasmania) urges you to follow this up by contacting the media, and your Federal politicians and by discussing it in your workplace and community groups.