Monday morning, August 19, 2013 and Graeme Dunstan, 71, walked into a Rockhampton court surrounded by around 20 supporters carrying peace flags and photos of dead civilians and soldiers.
Northern rivers-based Dunstan is charged with wilful damage of Commonwealth property, namely an Australian Army ‘Tiger’ armed reconnaissance helicopter, which was disabled by a blow from a garden mattock during the 2011 Talisman Saber Military Exercises.
Local filmmaker David Bradbury is covering the case in Rockhampton, and told The Echo that Dunstan’s trial has initially been promising.
‘The judge seems to be reasonable and has a sense of humour,’ he said. ‘And Graeme seems to be winning with cross-examining the expert witness, and the questionable costs of the helicopter’s repair bill.’
While the action was allegedly committed by fellow activist Bryan Law, now deceased, Dunstan confessed to being Mr Law’s driver and assistant and is charged as a co-offender.
But Mr Dunstan is pleading not guilty to the charge and is employing the ‘Ploughshares’ defence, a biblical concept where military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications.
He says he will be arguing that the strike was an act of conscience ‘aimed a raising public awareness to the true nature of the war in Afghanistan where the attack helicopters were to be deployed.’
‘The Tiger is similar in design and identical in function to the Apache helicopter used by the US Army to gun down innocents in the “Collateral Murder” footage leaked by Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and which has had in excess of 14 million viewers on YouTube.’
His long and colourful peace activism legacy is well known: trained at Duntroon’s Royal Military College, he says he later became disillusioned ‘with the military mindset’ and enrolled to study engineering.
In his opening address to the court, he said, ‘Soon I was to become a major campus organiser of the war resistance at the University of NSW.’ In 1973, Dunstan helped organise Nimbin’s Aquarius Festival and later founded Peacebus.com.
The trial is expected to last three days.