Peter Mitchell / Herald Sun – 2005-09-17 23:41:13
LOS ANGELES (September 16, 2005) — American peace activist Scott Parkin arrived back in the US today under guard after Australian authorities detained him in a Melbourne jail for five days for being a “national security risk”.
The 36-year-old Texan history teacher was also given a bill for almost $11,700 after his brush with Australian authorities. Mr Parkin said he was made to feel like a terrorist and a criminal and remains baffled as to why six police officers “snatched him off the street” as he left a Melbourne cafe last Saturday.
He said he was interrogated and spent the next five days in solitary confinement in a Melbourne jail. He was escorted by two Victorian correctional officers on a Qantas passenger plane which left Melbourne yesterday, arriving in Los Angeles this morning.
“I’m just completely baffled by all of this,” said Mr Parkin, surrounded by Australian TV cameras and media, soon after his arrival at Los Angeles international airport. Mr Parkin was in Australia as part of a six-month holiday in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He arrived on June 1.
An activist for 15 years, he said he gave talks while in Australia about the war in Iraq and helped organise one protest against US energy company Halliburton. “In the talks I gave I wasn’t even openly critical of Australia,” Mr Parkin said. “I was being openly critical of the US occupation (of Iraq) and I was being openly critical of Halliburton.”
Mr Parkin said authorities never made it clear why he had been arrested. “They were very vague,” he said. “They said I violated sections of the migration act and they said I was a direct or indirect risk to their national security.”
Mr Parkin was housed alone in a jail cell that contained two concrete slabs to sleep on, a TV set and a sink. “They gave me three couch cushions and three really crummy blankets and fed me three times a day,” he said.
Mr Parkin was also handed a bill for almost $11,700. It included $4235.03 for his airfare back to LA and $6675.39 for the return airfares of his two corrective services escorts as well as their accommodation in Los Angeles. “They’re staying in Anaheim on Disneyland Drive I heard,” Mr Parkin quipped.
The five-day stay at the Melbourne Assessment Prison will cost him another $777. “They said if I ever decided to return to Australia I’d have to pay them back,” Mr Parkin said.
The activist was also banned from entering Australia for three years. He plans to fight his removal from Australia and is desperate to find out why authorities were concerned about him. “I’d love to know the assessment in which the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) made of me to lock me up for five days in solitary confinement and then remove me from the country essentially forcibly,” Mr Parkin said.
Mr Parkin warned the incident raised great concerns about freedom of speech in Australia and the US.
“I think we are seeing a crisis in freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Australia, the United States and lots of places and people need to be aware,” he said.
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