Bob Brown Foundation has applauded the dismissal of charges in the case of takayna protestor Ailsa Bennell as handed down by Magistrate Webster today.
Ms Bennell was charged with the offence of hindering mining operations on a mine lease under section 84 of the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 and trespass to an excavator. The mining operations allegedly hindered were not approved at the time, and permits granted following Ms Bennell’s arrest were found to be unlawful by the Federal Court in July 2022.
“Magistrate Webster stated that MMG mine manager Steve Scott generally agreed that the protesting activities on Helilog road did not impact on MMG’s mining activities,” Bob Brown Foundation’s Jenny Weber said.
“This was a test case for twenty-eight other takayna defenders on similar charges. We call for these charges to be dismissed,” Jenny Weber said.
“We celebrate this ruling with Ms Bennell and congratulate her on her courage in defending the rainforests of takayna and the wildlife that rely on them from MMG’s proposed toxic tailings dam,” said Bob Brown Foundation takayna / Tarkine Campaigner Scott Jordan.
“The fact that Ms Bennell was forced to stand trial on charges that clearly had no legs raises serious questions about this government’s obsession with stifling protest while ignoring illegal activity by Chinese Government-owned mining company MMG.”
“Ms Bennell and twenty-eight others were charged with this offence and placed on bail conditions which for the past twenty months denied them the right to attend further visits or protest on the site of the illegal actions of MMG.”
“It is a weaponization of bail conditions to deny access to protestors. Ms Bennell broke no law and yet has been punished by the restriction on her freedom of movement imposed in her bail conditions. That is unjust.”
This ruling follows earlier cases that were thrown out of court in February 2022 where thirty-five protestors were charged with being on a closed forest road despite the road not being legally closed.
“We ask the Minister, when will MMG face trial over its illegal actions? Without MMG facing trial, Ms Bennell’s arrest and the arrests of many others can only be seen as a protection racket for MMG.”
“Tasmania Police wasted taxpayers money defending mining company MMG’s push to destroy rainforests,” Jenny Weber said.
Colette Harmsen, takayna defender facing a three month suspended jail sentence, had her court matter adjourned until 9 May at 2:15pm.