The defence lawyer representing a former US marine pilot fighting extradition to the US has said “foreign interference” may be behind his client being held under the strictest conditions.
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Daniel Edmund Duggan, an Australian citizen, is set to be transferred to Goulburn’s Supermax prison and is alleged to have been held under restrictions similar to those convicted of terrorist offences. He formerly operated Top Gun Australia, an adventure flight business.
While the 54-year-old’s charges remain sealed, his arrest on 21 October in Orange came at the same time as reports emerged that ex-British and Australian pilots were training their Chinese counterparts.
Defence lawyer Dennis Miralis said, “In 22 years of practising criminal law with a specialisation in extradition, I have yet to see something as remarkable as this.
“We’ve been told the Australian Federal Police do not regard him as a risk. We’ve been told the Attorney-General’s department do not regard him as a risk.
“We are concerned that there may have been some foreign interference encouraging the corrective services minister to take this dramatic course of action.”
He added his client was a “proud Australian” who no longer holds US citizenship, adding that Duggan had been denied medical treatment. Barrister Trent Glover, representing the US, said in response this was the “ordinary, usual extradition process”.
The case is next due in court on 16 December.
His case followed reports in The Times and The Australian newspapers that China had been reaching out to former UK and Australian pilots.
Defence Minister Richard Marles pledged an investigation into the alleged practice, and shortly afterwards told journalists that “enough evidence” had emerged to warrant a review of current laws.
However, Marles crucially refused to say whether the involvement of any Australians had been confirmed.
“The information provided to me so far presents enough evidence to warrant the need for a detailed examination into the adequacy of current Defence policies and procedures addressing this matter,” Minister Marles said in a statement.
He added former personnel had an “enduring obligation” to protect national secrets, and changes to the law would be made if “weaknesses” were found.
“I want to make this point. For those who do come into possession of our nation’s secrets, either through service in the Australian Defence Force or, indeed, service in any other part of the Commonwealth, there is an enduring obligation to maintain those secrets for as long as they are secrets, which persists well after their engagement with the Commonwealth, and to breach that obligation is a very serious crime.
“And that is clear and unambiguous.”
Currently, ex-service personnel can only work with overseas militaries with permission from Australia.