Thursday September 2 2004 06:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
"Retired Olympic star Betty Cuthbert, after recently having written to Prime Minister John Howard twice, asking him to intervene and allow protection visas to the remaining Vietnamese asylum seekers on Christmas Island who arrived on the Hao Kiet last year, will meet those who have already been granted asylum in Mandurah today.
"Under the motto: "Betty Cuthbert stands up for refugees running for their lives", Ms Cuthbert, who is now wheelchair-bound as a paraplegic, will 'stand up for refugees' at an event in the West Australian coastal town south of Perth this morning.
"Ms Cuthbert has not just asked for clemency for the remaining refugees who have now been on Christmas Island for 14 months, but also for intervention in the fate the two men convicted and imprisoned on people smuggling charges, one of them an Australian citizen.
"In a statement released yesterday, the organisers state that
"... two men from the Hao Kiet were convicted and received mandatory sentences for People Smuggling offences despite the fact that the Crown agrees that Mr Tran and Mr Nguyen did not benefit in any way."
"The organisers of the Mandurah event argue in their statement at the imprisonment of the to men contraves the International Smuggling Protocol, to which Australia is a signatory since 2001.
"Project SafeCom concurs with the organisers of this Betty Cuthbert event, in that the new people smuggling laws are themselves unjust, and disregards the observations made by sitting judges, because these laws are created not because they intends to dispense justice, but to dole out politically motivated scare mongering. The laws themselves have elements in them that make them a blight in terms of justice.
"People smugglers rackets should be broken, but friends and family that help refugees, should be honoured and supported, and held up as examples to Australians: this is also what Betty Cuthbert expressed. The convictions in this case are mean, mandatory, and politically motivated, and therefore unjust.
"From the statement: Champion Olympic runner, Betty Cuthbert has asked for the prerogative of mercy to be applied in this matter because these two men are heroes and not people smugglers.
"A Project SafeCom delegate will attend the event and make a statement in support of the refugees and Betty Cuthbert's involvement with them.
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]