Christian peace activist Ciaron O’Reilly was detained and
questioned by ASIO agents at Brisbane airport
last Friday after a 30-hour flight from Ireland. The interview took
place in a secure room at Brisbane
airport and one of the questions agents asked the jet-lagged O’Reilly
was whether he’d had previous dealings with ASIO. “Well you’re a secret
organisation,”
he replied, “you tell me if I’ve had dealings with ASIO agents before.”

Brisbane-born O’Reilly is one of the Pit Stop Ploughshares
defendants awaiting trial in Dublin on 5 July on charges of causing
$US2.5 million criminal damage to a US war plane that was to be deployed in the
2003 Iraq conflict. Defendants have been allowed to leave the country, but are
required to return to Ireland a week before the July trial. O’Reilly is in Australia
to visit family.

ASIO questioned O’Reilly about his plans
during his three-month stay in Australia,
and about his role in peaceful protests during the Shoalwater Bay
“Operation Talisman Sabre” joint US/Australia military exercises in
2005. He was also asked whether he planned to
accompany his brother Sean to his late February Alice
Springs court date arising
from his arrest following a peace demonstration at the Pine Gap joint defence
and intelligence-gathering facility.

During the interview, O’Reilly was asked
about the Pit Stop Ploughshares case
in Ireland. If convicted, the five Catholic Worker activists face up to ten
years in jail. The ASIO interview ended in a
Keystone Cops moment when the agents had to call for outside assistance to open the
interview room, having locked O’Reilly and themselves in.

O’Reilly’s detention at Brisbane airport
has highlighted the international cooperation of security agencies in tracking
anti-war activists. Several of O’Reilly’s American friends were raided by the
FBI just before they left for Ireland
to attend the June trial. They were charged with offences that arose from a
2003 action in which they occupied a US Marines recruiting office and poured
blood on documents. They are now serving jail terms.

O’Reilly was also under surveillance when
he was last in Australia in June 2005 and told Crikey he is assuming that his phone
calls are being monitored this time.

Meanwhile, Newsweek recently revealed that field reports from the Pentagon’s
counter-intelligence unit show that Texas-based peace activist Scott Parkin had been under surveillance
from at least June 2004.

Peter Fray

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