Duggan’s Family Plead With PM to Send the Father of Six Home for Christmas

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Duggan's family

“At this special time of year,” writes Saffrine Duggan in a letter to prime minister Anthony Albanese dated 14 November, “I am writing to plead with you to exercise your power and urgently, release my husband Daniel Duggan, as an act of kindness and an expression of Australian sovereignty.”

Duggan was arrested by the Australian Federal Police on behalf of the United States government in October last year, and has since been remanded in the NSW prison system, labelled a high-risk offender and been made to endure prolonged isolation, which the UN considers a form of torture.

As Saffrine put it, her husband “is now facing his second Christmas in a two metre by four metre cell”, as he awaits “extradition on 12-year-old allegations that he rejects”, and, as his next court appearance isn’t scheduled until next May, it means he’s facing five more months alone in that cell.

The allegations against the Australia citizen involve a period he spent working as a flight instructor at the Test Flying Academy of South Africa circa 2010. Washington claims that the former US marine pilot of 13 years passed on trade secrets whilst training foreign nationals, specifically Chinese pilots.

But 55-year-old Duggan, a citizen since 2012 and the father of six children, hasn’t been arrested in a vacuum. Indeed, his case has progressed since 2017, in tandem with the US-led build up to war with China: a cold war climate where once common practices can conveniently become criminalised.

Home detention warranted

“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 sets out for both prime minister Albanese, as well as to attorney general Mark Dreyfus in a replica letter.

“These conditions are in no way commensurate with the charges that he is facing in the United States or the standards” within the Nelson Mandela Rules, which set out the UN recommended minimum standards for detainees, the mother-of-six further explained.

The Mandela Rules stipulate solitary confinement is up to 22 hours a day without meaningful human contact, whilst this for more than 15 days in a row is considered prolonged solitary confinement, and such prolonged isolation should be prohibited. Yet, Dan has been at it for more than 14 months.

The Australian remandee sent a formal request to Corrective Services NSW acting commissioner Leon Taylor respectfully asking that he use his authority to issue a home detention order that would allow the father to return home, as he poses no threat to the community or any flight risk.

“For Dan, there is no presumption of innocence, no privacy, no dignity and no reasonable opportunity to actively participate in his own defence,” Saffrine made clear to the PM. “During his time in prison, he has missed so many family milestones, including the tragic death of his mother.”

Red herrings

As Dan explains in his letter, he was arrested on 21 October 2022, as he exited a local supermarket in the NSW town of Orange, where he was living with his family. And AFP officers were acting on behalf of the US, when they took the man with no prior convictions or even any earlier arrest into custody.

From that point on, there have been anomalies regarding the case, including attorney general Mark Dreyfus having signed off on extradition this time last year, yet he’s never officially addressed whether the laws Duggan has allegedly broken in the US are reflected on the books here as required.

A Trump era 2017 US grand jury indictment charges Duggan with conspiring with eight other foreign nationals in the export of defence services in violation of a US-imposed arms embargo on China, as well as money laundering. And the gung-ho Biden administration has gone on to action this.

Part of the reason that the Duggan extradition case has dragged on is that the ex-marine complained to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) that he considered he’d been lured back to Australia last year from China, where he’d been managing AVIBIZ: a local aviation consultancy.

The IGIS has significantly gone on to investigate the matter, which saw ASIO promise the Australian pilot an aviation security identification card on return, yet when he did arrive back in the country, he was notified that this had been a mistake, and then, he was arrested by federal police.

This suggestion is controversial, as in the United States an intelligence agency is permitted to lawfully lure a suspect to a jurisdiction via false promises, however in Australian law, this practice is forbidden, meaning Dan may have been enticed back to this country in an unlawful manner.

As Cardinal Law principal Dr Glenn Kolomeitz told Sydney Criminal Lawyers earlier this month, he considers that the case reflects a general chilling of relations with Beijing in the lead up to a war on China, which Washington is advancing and Canberra is dutifully and compliantly embroiled within.

Ex-military pilots have long trained others as a means to support themselves post service. Yet, last year, when the US arrested Dan by proxy, the UK said it was investigating its own ex-defence pilots for any illegalities, while our government said it would consider whether it should do the same.

“Dan is caught in this geopolitical debacle, as is his Australian family,” added Kolomeitz. “Quite frankly, this attack on an Australian family on spurious grounds and this debacle on the restraint and potential custody of the property, just supports what I am saying about it all being a farce.”

Home for Christmas

Washington upped the ante recently when it issued a restraining order to prevent the sale of a southern NSW property, which has a part-built family home upon it. Saffrine owns the property and had been attempting to sell it in order to finance her husband’s defence and support her kids.

The AFP, however, applied a seizure order to it on 31 October. The US claims the property was bought with the proceeds of crime, and the Duggans challenged this in the NSW Supreme Court. Yet, on 6 December, the court ruled that the order stood and Saffrine could not continue to sell it.

“We are also trying to come to terms with the fact that the United States – with the help of our government – is ramping up its torture of our family by putting a restraining order on my property, an unfinished house on the south coast,” Saffrine further outlined in her letter to the PM.

“I had been trying to sell the house, to buy a smaller house for me and the kids to live in, and to help fund Dan’s fight for justice.”

Currently, Duggan, who again has no priors or history of violence, is being punished long term in a manner that one would expect to be applied to an individual convicted of some heinous crime and this treatment is likely to lead to ongoing psychological trauma.

“For this entire time, I have been forced to be a single mother,” Saffrine put it sincerely to the prime minister in ending her letter. “All we want is for our family to be back together.”

“Please allow Dan to fight for his freedom surrounded by those who love him and protect our children from any further damage. Please, show us some mercy this Christmas.”

Main photo: Saffrine Duggan, Dan’s wife, and three of their six children

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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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