Theo Speaks: Pro-Palestinian Citizen Threatened With Bomb Pushes for Terrorism Charges

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Bomb device in Palestinian

Imagine walking out to your driveway and finding a homemade bomb sitting on the bonnet of your car. The explosive device is made of a jerry can, partially filled with petrol, with a rag hanging out. Bolts are strapped to the side of the slapdash object. A lighter is attached, so anyone can use it.

And there’s a note demanding you stop doing something political in nature or else.

So, on feeling the terror one experiences on receiving a death threat, you call police, and the bomb squad drop round, with its robot, and the speciality officers literally spend hours with the device, before declaring it safe, and from that point on, the threat it posed is progressively downplayed.

Over the coming weeks, as nothing much transpires in the investigation, and you’re well aware that NSW police management has placed a junior officer in charge, you wonder why, as you’re also aware that the bombmaker was politically motivated, that the terror unit hasn’t been doing the inquiring?

But in your quiet moments, it all makes sense, as, in our post-October 2023 reality, flying a Palestinian flag and opposing the wholesale massacre Israel is perpetrating upon the Palestinians of Gaza, are acts now considered more akin to terror, than any explosive devices used to silence them.

And in this strange new world, not only do the local authorities appear to be dragging their feet on arresting a local Zionist suspect known to them, but after the avoidance game no longer cuts it, they decide to then undercharge him on arrest, in direct contradiction to regular policing practice.

Brave new justice system

Sydney man Theo, who’s keeping his last name to himself, doesn’t have to imagine this scenario, as he’s currently living it.

Local construction boss David Wise is now being remanded in a NSW facility, after the NSW police go-slow on arresting him was no longer viable, and the Israeli man had been set to plead guilty at Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday.

That was until Theo started a campaign to get the matter taken more seriously last Friday, and he received a lot of community support, because, as he tells it, many are scared by the fact that someone was able to threaten him with a homemade bomb and then police let it slide.

Letting it slide has meant NSW police not taking the matter seriously or urgently enough, and then undercharging the likely culprit.

Indeed, for leaving this flammable threat to Theo’s life in the driveway, Wise is charged with send article to cause alarm, two counts of stalking, one of using a carriage service to menace and another charge of trespass.

Even for the untrained “legal expert” the placing of an explosive device at a person’s premises and not detonating it but leaving a note that reads: “Enough! Take down flag! One chance!!!”, hence threatening that ‘if you don’t remove your political statement, I might kill you,’ equals a terrorist act.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Theo on 27 March, after he’d successfully secured reconsideration of the approach taken to charging over this crime, as it was determined to pass the matter on to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for reconsideration on Tuesday.

Mascot construction boss David Wise allegedly left a homemade bomb in your driveway on 5 January.

The device was combustible, at least in part, and it had a lighter attached, so anyone could have set it off, as well as a note implying that if you didn’t stop publicly showing your support for the Palestinians via the flying of a flag, then the consequences could be lethal.

Wise appeared in the Downing Centre Local Court for a second mention on 26 March, and it was expected he would plead guilty to a range of charges.

However, you had been challenging the way the proceedings were playing out more broadly outside of the courtroom and in the end, you were successful in doing so.

Theo, how did it all go over recent days in regard to your challenge to the case, which was supported by many, and what happened at court on Tuesday?

Wise has made admissions and his defence lawyer, at a previous mention, had indicated that his client had placed the device. So, my understanding is, at this point, that’s an established fact.

The charges that have been laid so far, relate to stalking and contain none reflecting the weapon or the political nature of his actions.

I found this quite concerning. I’d been attempting to speak to police about their decision not to investigate this matter in a manner that considers weapons and potential terrorism.

I’ve been requesting to speak to the prosecution since the day after his arrest. And that request has been repeatedly denied.

My concern has been that the charges that have been laid, don’t reflect what is the norm in terms of charges laid against other people for similar actions, and not just people with Islamic or Arab backgrounds, but also those cases of extreme white nationalist terrorism in Australia.

So, the fact that the charges against Wise were what they were seems bizarre. And I’m very concerned that it creates tacit permission to many other people that have been making threats and attacks towards Palestinians and their supporters.

This is a civil rights issue.

Theo, outside Sydney Downing Centre on Monday. Photo credit Still from footage of interview with Theo undertaken by journalist Serkan Öztürk @SerkanTheWriter
Theo, outside Sydney Downing Centre on Monday. Photo credit Still from footage of interview with Theo undertaken by journalist Serkan Öztürk @SerkanTheWriter

So, did you go to the Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions?

I was requesting the police include weapons charges, according to the legislation. These are clearly warranted here, in my opinion, as a nonlawyer.

I was pushing for the matter to be escalated from the Local Court and the police prosecutor and given to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions.

I can’t define the charges. But I do think it is a case that needs to be prosecuted with significant gravity. This was a very serious action. And there is a lot of community support for this.

So, on Friday, over the weekend and onto Monday, myself and hundreds of other community members, who are scared about what this case could mean, called ministers, sent emails and phoned the DPP, making clear that not only is this seen as an absurd situation, but we demanded to see justice.

I’m pleased to be able to say that the police prosecutor has referred the matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution, who are the people that are able to lay certain terrorism charges.

They’re now considering whatever charges might be added to Wise’s case.

And at the end of the day, I would like to give my thanks to the thousands of people that have seen and recognised this issue for what it is and have spoken out about it and demanded justice.

As you’ve said, there has been this undercharging. And so far, the original charges stand, which involve send article to cause alarm, two counts of stalk/intimate, use carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence, and unlawfully enter inclosed land.

This is despite you and your partner having felt threatened and intimidated by the bomb threat.

And it obviously appears like a terrorist act, as Wise threatened violence against you in order to progress a political objective. And further, rather than send this case to the terrorist unit, a junior officer was appointed to handle it.

What has your overall experience with the NSW police and state authorities been like? And what would you say has been conveyed in the approach taken?

I can sum this up with one word: woeful. This has been something else. The case was being investigated by a constable. And I’ll be clear I have no issue with any of the officers that I dealt with. Like that constable, for instance, phenomenal work from him.

The problem, as far as I have seen, is with the administration of the police. This is a case, which has been given to a constable and not been escalated to counterterrorism police. It is being dealt with in a certain way.

If I give you a butter knife and tell you to cut down a tree, you will fail, and it is my fault. And that has happened with this investigation, the administration, the upper levels of police, has given its team a butter knife and set them up for failure.

The homemade bomb device left in Theo’s driveway
The homemade bomb device left in Theo’s driveway

How has the discovery of the bomb impacted you and those close to you? And how has the approach of authorities compounded this?

Believe it or not, the lack of action from the authorities has been far worse than the bomb itself. That has been far more damaging to my life.

This has been my life for the last few months. It has been dealing with this. And this is not because of what Wise did, it is because the police aren’t doing their job.

It sounds to me like someone has made a serious threat to your life and the police have…

have covered it up…

or I was going to say have left it to you to ensure it is properly investigated.

I have no doubt, and I have received external indications to support this, that only because the public awareness and subsequent pressure that I’ve been putting on police has anything happened.

If I was not as stubborn as I have been or didn’t put in the resources, or even if I had to look after children, I wouldn’t have been able to push this and I’m sure it would have been forgotten.

You’ve been quite vocal about your support of the Palestinians. I’ve seen footage of you speaking amongst the people at the 24/7 Gaza picket out the front of the prime minister’s office in Marrickville, of which he and the media have all but ignored.

How would you say the implications of the way the authorities have reacted to the crime against you is impacting on the Palestinian community? And how would you say Labor’s broader response to Gaza is impacting?

People are scared. People are scared because supporters of Palestine are already being attacked in the media, attacked professionally and attacked physically.

Since Wise planted the bomb, I’ve known numerous people, who, just because of that, have taken down flags or reduced the visibility of their support for Palestine.

And that, of course, was Wise’s intent. His intent was to cause fear and suppress opposition to what Francesca Albanese of the UN said, just the other day, is a genocide.

The actions of Wise, and the lack of police justice, as well as political and media consideration of what he has done, doesn’t just create a situation where people like me feel scared, as it creates a situation where we should all feel scared.

No additional charges have been laid as yet. So, this matter is not over.

If Wise gets off on only the charges that have been laid against him already, I fear a bloodbath.

I feel that if those charges stand that our justice system, the system that is meant to provide security and treat everyone equally, will then be saying, “There is an open season, and as long as there is a Palestinian flag, you can do whatever you want.”

You’ve also commented that some people assumed you were Palestinian because of the statement you made and because of this, you’ve experienced some of the general racism of Australian society.

What has that meant? How would you describe the phenomenon to those who aren’t being subjected to this daily prejudice?

I’ve experienced a taste of it. And unfortunately, I think that if I was not white and had not been a male, I never would have been able to push this case as far. I would not have had a chance.

Experiencing this prejudice and what appears to be a sense that because of one’s race or because of having some sort of affiliation with Palestinians, people seem to consider you as second-class citizens, that’s been eye opening, and not in a good way.

I thought I saw pretty well in the past. But this experience has made me understand a lot more: the degree of racism and prejudice that so many in our community face in everything they do.

And would you say this bias has been apparent in dealing with the authorities? Would you have succeeded with what you achieved at the courts if you hadn’t been a white man?

On Monday, myself and a solicitor went into the police prosecutor office to try and speak with one. There was me, the solicitor and eight other people there to show solidarity, and there were nine police around us.

This is not normal. This is coming from an attitude that supporters of Palestine, Arabs and Muslims are inherently dangerous.

Again, the solicitor and I went and knocked on the door to speak to a police prosecutor and there was a cop following us and just staring at the solicitor who is an Arab. 

I felt ashamed because he is a gentleman, who’s put in the work to be there to support civil rights and the safety of the whole community – not just me and Palestinians, but everyone, as there should not be any terrorism at all in this nation – and the police officer is just glaring at him.

I felt disgusted that this is our society.

David Wise targeted you with a terrorist act over a Palestinian flag, and NSW police has been reluctant to take the matter seriously.

And needless to say, prior to the events of last October the initial approach taken by the authorities would have been quite different.

It’s hard to gauge what all this means at present. But what do you think the implications of the crime against you and the way it has been handled so far, says about the broader issue of Gaza and the way this nation is reacting to it?

A lot of people have been discussing whether there are lobby groups involved in this case, and perhaps there are, but one thing that’s important here is that Wise is an Israeli man, and when he harassed me in person in December, he showed some concerning support for the Zionist movement.

When we see someone who is acting for this political end, and when we say that they are a terrorist or they’ve committed a terrorist crime, it suddenly makes the actions of our government in supporting a regime that is again likely committing genocide, it makes the validity of that decision a lot clearer and it shows them to be supporting a regime that is extremely violent, and is currently murdering tens of thousands of innocent people.

Showing this for what it is backs our government into a position where it is scared that it may be seen, very correctly, to be supporting a terrorist, murderous and genocidal regime.

It is important to call things for what they are and there is an attempt here to deny the truth. And that is dangerous.

And lastly, Theo, under normal circumstances the act of flying a nation’s flag outside of a house, accompanied by a chalkboard is not radical act. But in the current political climate your act is obviously extreme in the mind of some.

Indeed, your act and support for Palestinians in general is increasingly being criminalised in the public mind.

Why were you compelled to make this public statement? How would you describe the situation in Gaza right now?

I’m not an expert on what’s occurring in Gaza or on the classification of genocide. But what is occurring in Gaza, and what is being openly advocated and praised by many members of the Israeli government, is a wholesale slaughter of civilians and children.

I also note that in prior genocides and even prior extreme war crimes, we don’t find out what actually happened for a long time.

It takes a long time for mass graves to be discovered. It also takes a long time for the mechanisms of murder to be understood.

So, I am sure from history, that what we are seeing in Gaza – the pictures of people dying, not just from munitions, but from deprivation – I’m sure that this is a fraction of what over the next decades we will discover actually occurred.

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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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