Attorney-General Can Save Dan Duggan from US Extradition Over China Panic Pretext

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Dan Duggan Dreyfus

New South Wales Magistrate Daniel Reiss gave the greenlight to the US request to extradite former US marine and current Australian citizen Dan Duggan at Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Friday, 24 May 2024,which is a decision that has left Dan’s Australian wife, Saffrine, and their six children devastated.

Washington is accusing Duggan, a former US marine fighter pilot for the 13 years to 2002, of having trained Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers over the years 2010 and 2012, in violation of a US arms embargo, which includes military training and advice.

The lower court decision sees Dan’s fate back in the hands of attorney general Mark Dreyfus, as in December 2022, the chief lawmaker then agreed to local extradition proceedings, which came to an end last Friday, and it’s now up to him to make the final determination relating to the father-of-six.

Yet, while it’s difficult to prove, many esteemed commentators from former foreign minister Bob Carr to journalist Mary Kostakidis and Greens Senator David Shoebridge, have cried foul over a development that reeks of cold war strategising designed to demonise China in the public mind.

And Dan’s wife, Saffrine Duggan, told a regional newspaper on Monday that her family has far from given up on its father’s return, and she and Dan’s supporters are now petitioning the AG to see reason, especially as the US case is “fraught with false statements and omissions”.

Attorney-General can end this 

“This was no place to battle,” Saffrine Duggan said, straight after the 24 May hearing at the Downing Centre. “There was no opening in the local court for my husband to run his case.”

“Today was simply about ticking boxes, and it is time to move to the next stage,” the mother-of-six continued outside the court. “Now, we respectfully ask the attorney general to take another look at this case and bring my husband home.”

An inconsistency that’s always plagued this case is that the 1976 Treaty on Extradition between Australia and the USA rules out extradition when the foreign charge laid against the subject isn’t a local crime, as well as when the charges are political in nature.

The Trump administration 2017 grand jury indictment lays four charges against the father from Orange, which consist of alleged conspiracy, money laundering and two counts of exporting defence services to Chinese military pilots in violation of a US embargo on military exports to China.

The last two counts don’t appear in Australian law, however, as there is no local arms embargo against exporting US defence services to China.

“This man is an Australian citizen and could not be and cannot be tried for two of the counts,” said renowned ACT barrister Bernard Collaery in regard to Dan’s charges, back in April. “The US has no right to prosecute an Australian citizen for something that isn’t an offence in Australia.”

But Dreyfus signed off on commencing the extradition process in December 2022, while the charges against Duggan have been contained in the indictment since 2017, and given the AG’s recent track record of allowing whistleblowers to end up in prison, denying the US extradition could be unlikely.

Luring the suspect illegally

Australian Federal Police officers arrested Duggan in the carpark of a supermarket in the NSW regional town of Orange on 21 October 2022, which was in regard to the US extradition request. And since then, the Australian citizen has been held in prolonged isolation for over 19 months.

Duggan had been managing a flight academy in the Chinese city of Qingdao in 2022, when he received a message that he’d been provided with ASIO clearance for an ASIC card, which permits pilots entry into certain off limit areas at airports and opens up avenues for local employment.

But when the Australian citizen returned from China, he discovered the security clearance was no longer on offer, and rather, days later, AFP officers arrested him and he’s been remanded in solitary confinement ever since, and at times, he’s even been classed as a high-security inmate.

Duggan’s lawyers put it to the court last year that ASIO has purposefully lured Duggan back to this country with the offer of a card, in order to arrest him on his return, so as to facilitate the US extradition request, despite the fact that entrapment in this manner is unlawful in Australia.

Dan subsequently lodged a March 2023 complaint with the Independent General of Intelligence and Security regarding the illegal lure scenario, in which he raised ten points of contention. And the IGIS determined to inquiry into the matter.

However, ASIO director Mike Burgess explained in March that the classified IGIS lure report was complete and it absolved his agency. Yet, the #FreeDanDuggan campaign countered this, as the IGIS had been in contact and informed it that one breach of protocol had been involved in the operation.

 China panic

Duggan has always maintained that the Chinese nationals he did train in South Africa were civilians. And the Test Flying Academy South Africa, where Dan worked early last decade, told CNN that he only undertook one test pilot contract in late 2012, which was after he’d been naturalised here.

Principal lawyer at Cardinal Legal, Dr Glenn Kolomeitz told Sydney Criminal Lawyers last year that Dan is caught up in a “geopolitical debacle”, involving a cold war climate leading towards a conflict with China, and ‘reds under the bed’ conspiracies, like Dan’s, only help to facilitate the coming war.

“The indictment refers to co-conspirators besides Dan,” said Kolomeitz, who’s also a political analyst. “And that, in itself, is problematic because some of them are British, and the British have said they haven’t done anything wrong. The UK said that none of their people had broken any rules.”

Around the time that Duggan was taken into custody in 2022, the United Kingdom announced that it would be investigating 30 former military pilots in relation to their flight training practices, and Australian defence minister Richard Marles said he’d be considering whether to do the same.

But this is all in keeping with the build up to war against Beijing. This is being led by Washington and has involved the establishment of AUKUS, and the US administration is increasingly passing laws and policies that are turning this continent into the main forward US base in the Indo Pacific region.

Former Labor leader Carr put it to an anti-AUKUS meeting in Marrickville in March 2023, that in 2017, he’d noted a distinct turn in political reporting in the media, whereby China was being framed as an adversary and threat. And this was the same year that Trump issued the Duggan indictment.

Carr terms the false fears about the East Asian giant and our greatest trading partner the China panic. And all those who spoke at the Marrickville meeting were clear that the China panic is being fuelled in order to justify warring against China, as it’s threatening US economic hegemony.

So, Washington wants to make Duggan an example, not because he committed any crimes or poses a threat to US national security, but because the smokescreen surrounding his case that’s being presented as fact, serves to frame Beijing as adversary in the popular mind.

And if Dreyfus doesn’t put an end to the case against Duggan, it’s for these same reasons.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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