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Apr 19, 2012

WikiLeaks lawyer, on 'inhibited person' travel list, stopped at airport

Human rights lawyer Jen Robinson has been stopped while returning to Australia as an "inhibited person". Who did it and why?

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Australian human rights lawyer and WikiLeaks supporter Jennifer Robinson appears to have been placed on a travel watch list and was prevented from leaving the UK this morning until approval was secured from the Australian High Commission.

Robinson was returning to Australia to speak at the same conference as Attorney-General Nicola Roxon tomorrow — the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association’s Regional Law Conference — on the apt subject of “Lawyers in the firing line”. Roxon is giving an address on human rights.

Robinson was stopped when checking in at Heathrow early this morning Australian time and told she was an “inhibited person” and that approval from the Australian High Commission would be needed before she was allowed to proceed. She tweeted

Security guard: “you must have done something controversial” because we have to phone the embassy. “Certain government agencies” list.

Intriguingly, however, no Australian agency uses the term “inhibited person”. A DIAC spokesman told Crikey “the only mechanism that would restrict uplift of a person to Australia is the Movement Alert List (MAL).”

The government doesn’t discuss who is on the MAL, but it is understood it would be highly unusual for an Australian to be on the MAL.

This raises the possibility that, in spite of what she was told, Robinson was stopped not at the behest of an Australian agency but a foreign agency. In December, Robinson was in the US to monitor the pre-trial hearing of Bradley Manning and was sharply critical of the conduct of the hearing. In January, she confronted US Attorney-General Eric Holder about the Obama administration’s treatment of WikiLeaks when both of them attended the Sundance Film Festival.

Robinson is currently en route to Hong Kong before travelling on to Sydney, where she is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning.

A short time ago DFAT issued the following statement to Crikey:

“We are not aware of any Australian Government restriction applying to Ms Robinson’s travel. As an Australian with a valid passport, she would be free to return to Australia at any stage. The UK border authorities or airline of travel may be able to provide further insight on claims that she was impeded from boarding her flight.”

The DFAT statement is a reference to the fact that airlines themselves may stop people from boarding if they believe they may not be permitted to enter their destination country, leaving the airline with the cost of returning them to their point of departure. As Robinson is an Australian, however, this clearly would not have applied to her.

Crikey is seeking comment from the UK Border Agency.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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70 comments

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70 thoughts on “WikiLeaks lawyer, on ‘inhibited person’ travel list, stopped at airport

  1. Liz45

    @MARILYN – What can be said about Ferguson’s comment. Disgusting is the word. I was a bit confused between this story and the Baqtiari’s(spelling?)Their youngest child was born in captivity. Rose’s husband was not allowed to be there. (I’ve read of women in labour being handcuffed with a guard(male or female? who cared?) in attendance? I’ve also read of women not giving permission, but a caesarian being performed – one woman gave birth to twin girls under this appalling condition/s.)

    Rose and the baby were kept in a motel room with 24 hour guards for months – her other children were brought to her once or? a week. Through public scrutiny/opposition, she was reunited with her children out of jail. I believe one of the major churches was involved. The authorities didn’t believe that Rose was an Afghani. Vanstone was begged to wait, as the lawyers had organised for someone to go there and get proof – they did! But too late! That family were sent in a chartered plane just before Xmas day! I cried – a lot! Anger, sorrow and shame!

    We have no right to gloat about our so-called strong views about human rights – none at all!

    I’m glad the money was raised. Restores my faith in humanity! The Fergusons have never had a good reputation re caring for human beings. Look at the attitude to dumping nuclear waste in the Top End! Racist attitudes and the nuclear industry/tests etc go hand in hand I’m afraid!

    Thank you for all you do! I’m in awe! You restore my faith!

  2. Liz45

    @GREG JONES – It was on SBS on January 24 2012 and called, ‘The Man Who Jumped’. Here’s the link – http://www.sbs.com.au/documentary/program/855/

    Sadly, it has expired, but maybe you can buy it from SBS or maybe Marilyn has a suggestion. I recorded it and only watched it a few days ago!

    ***************

    Unlike some people here, I’m not surprised that Jennifer was treated in this manner. It all goes back to Blair/Bush/Howard and the draconian Laws and horrific treatment of people who they deemed was ‘suspicious’ or a ‘security threat’ real or IMAGINED?

    A really good documentary about the US after 9/11 including the PATRIOT Act, and the involvement of the CIA and FBI on real or imagined ‘suspicious persons’? It’s called, ‘Unconstitutional – the War on Civil Liberties’. This is the link – http://freedocumentaries.org/int.php?filmID=90

    This site has heaps of docos that you can watch for free – apart from what your IP charges etc. I’ve watched lots and this one is a real eye opener. Some may be shocked, I was! Innocent people, particularly of Middle Eastern appearance were jailed, flown out in secret at night, for ever, and the climate at the time was appalling. I hasten to add, that these were not the only people singled out. The Bush regime wanted local govts to report on people, and people were questioned in libraries for being ‘interested’ in harmless topics. True! I kid you not!
    Sit in the library looking at a reference book etc on Martin Luther King, or the Middle East, and then feel the presence of 2 burly FBI people at your side! A man was arrested for wearing a Peace badge or T shirt!

    I’m not surprised by the subject at hand, and as the Labor Govt has embraced, broadened almost every questionable invasion/imposition/investigation etc of innocent people, it shouldn’t surprise anyone else either! Look at the lengths they went to, including lying in the Court to ‘make’ a case against Dr Haneef purely for electoral advantage! It was just appalling – but not by US or British standards. Britain is responsible for the rendition of its citizens to either the Middle East or torture jails in Europe, and like Bush and Howard, lied their heads off! Downer (allegedly) lied about Mandouh Habib and David Hicks!

    The ease of being able to see first hand what these pillars of democracy have been up to is the reason why the Obama Administration wanted to curtail our access to the internet, and KNOWLEDGE! They’re s**t scared of the material Wikileaks has been given, and this is one way to stop it. thankfully, there was so much opposition, this time it failed! We are NOT entitled to the truth

    I’m probably under surveillance myself – since knowledge is such a threat! I’m not bothered at all! But????if I disappear???

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