Australian citizen Dan Duggan continues to be held in prolonged solitary confinement at Lithgow Correctional Centre, as the former US marine pilot has spent the last 15 months initially at Silverwater and now a regional maximum-security facility, as he awaits potential US extradition.
Dan’s wife, Saffrine Duggan wrote letters petitioning prime minister Anthony Albanese and attorney general Mark Dreyfus to return her husband to spend the festive season with his six Australian children in home detention, after he was unexpectedly swept away by the AFP in October 2022.
The Australian pilot had also written to Corrective Services NSW about home detention, only to be told that the department isn’t able to release him in such a manner, as he hasn’t been charged or sentenced with any crime under Australian law, so home detention isn’t an option.
Duggan had spent his time since serving in the US marines over the 13 years to 2002, working as a flight instructor, like so many ex-defence pilots across the Anglosphere had done. Yet, in 2022, the AFP arrested him on behalf of Washington, which had embarked on criminalising such behaviour.
Indeed, the legal profession providing representation to the family posits that the US is pursuing Duggan as part of the propaganda buildup to war against China, which finds his having trained Chinese nationals to fly circa 2010 a convenient behaviour to outlaw under the cold war climate.
Criminalised after the fact
An Australian citizen since 2012, Duggan has been charged in relation to a 2017 Trump era grand jury indictment that alleges conspiracy took place “to export, or attempt to export, and propose the exportation of defence services to the People’s Republic of China in violation of an arms embargo”.
Five counts involving the export of defence services in violation of the US-imposed arms embargo have been laid, including a charge of money laundering. And the Biden administration determined that 2022 was the right time to publicly pursue these charges.
The alleged criminal behaviour is said to have taken place circa 2010, and to have involved eight co-conspirators, at the time when Duggan had been training pilots of various nationalities, including Chinese people, at the Test Flying Academy of South Africa: one of the top schools on the planet.
Kolomeitz explained that ex-defence pilots training civilians was common. Yet, at the same time the US sought to extradite Duggan, the UK said it was investigating its own ex-fighter pilots over the same issue, and Australia defence minister Richard Marles advised he’d be contemplating the same.
A key issue with the extradition case, as Australian Senator David Shoebridge has noted, is that the nation’s chief lawmaker has never confirmed whether the US charges laid against Duggan are reflected in local laws, as is required under the terms of the 1976 Australia-US extradition treaty.
And Duggan remains in prolonged isolation 15 months on, in part, because he complained to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security about being lured to Australia from his managerial job at a flight school in the Chinese city of Qingdao by ASIO, with the promise of an ASIC card.
The Aviation Security Identification Card wasn’t forthcoming on arrival, however. And whilst US intelligence agencies can lure a suspect in this manner, it remains illegal under Australian law for intelligence agents to use such a tactic.
The IGIS determined that there was enough evidence pointing to this possibility, so the matter should be inquired into. And the other key reason for ongoing adjournments is that Duggan’s legal team are attempting to secure classified documents form the Defence Department.
Home detention for the convicted
“Home detention is not a condition of custody – it is a sentencing option,” wrote the unnamed Corrective Servies NSW director of parliamentary and executive services. “Given you have not been charged or sentenced with an offence” under local laws, home detention isn’t an option.
The Corrective Services NSW official further set out that Duggan has been arrested under the terms of the Extradition Act 1988 (Cth). And they added that the NSW Local Court considered it necessary that he be remanded following his arrest, and if there was any change, he could then apply for bail.
Following an inquiry to the AG, Saffrine’s local federal member Andrew Gee received a reply from Dreyfus outlining that in terms of him being held in extradition custody, the terms of that are to be determined by the relevant state authorities.
In NSW, home detention can be ordered for up to 18 months in cases where a court or magistrate determines that a convicted offender must serve a custodial sentence, and it is further found that the nature of their crime does not necessitate this being served inside a correctional facility.
Thrown to the lions
“As you are aware,” Dreyfus further wrote to Gee, “Mr Duggan was arrested and remanded in extradition custody under the Extradition Act 1988 (Cth) pursuant to the United States provisional request for his arrest.”
“I have accepted the extradition request, and the matter is now before a magistrate of New South Wales, who will determine whether Mr Duggan is eligible for surrender to the United States,” he further explained.
“For the first eight months of his incarceration, he was not even allowed outside to exercise and was not made aware of the allegations against him for more than 60 days,” Saffrine set out last month in a letter to the prime minister and a replica one addressed to the top attorney.
The #Free Dan Duggan campaign has asserted from the time of Dan’s arrest that this case is playing out because of geopolitical cold war sensibilities that reveal, as have numerous military developments over the last 12 months, that Australia is increasingly forgoing sovereignty to the US.
Dan has further been held in prolonged isolation for 15 months. Yet, the UN minimum prison standards, The Mandela Rules, stipulate that solitary confinement is up to 22 hours a day without human contact, whilst this for more than 15 days, is considered prolonged solitary confinement.
The Mandela Rules maintain that prolonged solitary confinement should be prohibited. And in what will only compound the torture-like conditions the Australian has now long be subjected to, the prison has again taken away Duggan’s daily right to exercise away, similar to his first months inside.
And perhaps the lowest point in the Dan Duggan saga thus far, occurred when Washington issued a restraining order to prevent the sale of a southern NSW property that has a part-built family home upon it, which belongs to Saffrine, who was trying to sell it to cover court costs and living expenses.
The AFP applied a local seizure order at US request on 31 October, as that nation claims the property was bought with the proceeds of crime. And the Duggans challenged this in the NSW Supreme Court, only to be told on 6 December that it had ruled that the order stood, and the property can’t be sold.