Acquitted Waihopai spy station priest faces new charges

Waihopai Spy Station

Acquitted Waihopai spy station priest Peter Murnane O.P. is denying accusations he took part in an illegal Blockade Australia protest.

Murnane became a household name in New Zealand in 2010.

He had been charged with burglary and wilful damage to the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim – charges the High Court acquitted Murnane and two others of in 2011.

The first the 82-year old heard of his alleged involvement in the Blockade Australia demonstration was when two police officers turned up on his doorstep.

“They presented me with an eight-page charge sheet accusing me of being at a protest in Sydney in June this year,” he says.

That late-June protest was one of two unauthorised demonstrations. Scores of climate demonstrators converged on Sydney’s CBD, chaotically disrupting the morning peak-hour traffic.

If found guilty of causing serious disruption to roads, rail, and ports, he and others could be fined AUD$22,000 and be jailed for two years.

Murnane says he’s been accused of blocking access to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and blocking George Street and other streets. He says he’s also been accused of “walking about throughout a long protest playing a drum”.

The police told him he was seen on CCTV, public media and Facebook live streaming.

“That was quite amazing to me. I was in Melbourne during those days and weeks so it was quite a puzzle to me.”

He says he doesn’t own or play a drum, either. Nor has he been involved in any Blockade Australia protests.

New South Wales (NSW) Police “deserve to be called to account for this pretty horrendous mistake” he says.

The head of the Dominican church community in the Melbourne suburb of Camberwell, Father Mark O’Brien, is defending Murnane’s innocence.

“I can confirm that this allegation is quite mistaken or false … he was at St Dominic’s on 27th June and so could not have been in Sydney on the same day,” he stated on ABCs 7.30 programme.

Lawyer Mark Davis is acting for a group of Blockade Australia protesters and supporters.

He says he’s asked for the Police to drop the charges against Murnane, but they have not responded.

The Police won’t comment on the case to media either, as it’s before the court.


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