ACT News

Indigenous man detained for three nights after claiming Canberra property as embassy

A former federal press gallery journalist was kept in custody for three nights on a minor trespass offence after refusing to leave a Canberra property that he claimed as an embassy for the Yidindji people last week.

Former National Indigenous Television correspondent Murrumu Walubara Yidindji, 40, charged as Jeremy Geia, was arrested by police on Friday.

Geia had allegedly failed to comply with efforts by the ACT Government to evict him from a Kambah building, saying he didn't recognise the government, and claimed the building as an embassy for the Yidindji people of north Queensland. 

The former reporter, who was the first Western journalist to interview Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, recently renounced his citizenship, and severed all official ties with the federal government and Australian institutions. 

He now follows his nation's own laws, and came to Canberra to set up an embassy. 

His arrest on Friday followed a previous attempt to evict him from the Kambah building. 

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He was held in custody until Monday morning, when he appeared before Magistrate Bernadette Boss in the ACT Magistrates Court.

In a statement, ACT Policing said they told Geia he was entitled to bail after his arrest. 

But police claim Geia told them he didn't recognise Australian law and stated he would not attend court, prompting police to deny him bail from the ACT Watch House.

They then transferred him to the custody of ACT Corrective Services on Friday afternoon, and he was held in custody until Monday.

The court proceedings were disrupted significantly, and Geia refused to co-operate with the court and Dr Boss. 

He interrupted Dr Boss as she spoke, saying "do not talk while I am speaking". That prompted the magistrate to adjourn the court. 

Geia then said: "He who leaves the battlefield first loses by default. I dismiss all charges."

He was brought back before the court twice more – the second time via video link – and was eventually formally charged with the trespass offence.

Dr Boss strongly urged the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw the charge, noting Geia had spent a "considerable" amount of time in custody for what is a fine-only offence. 

But the DPP said that, at this stage, it was pursuing the charge against the Yidindji community leader.

Dr Boss entered a plea of not guilty to the charge on Geia's behalf.

She asked the prosecutor if he was aware that the continuation of proceedings would be an "impost on the public purse", because it would need to go to hearing. 

"I hope that the director is well aware of the course of action that you are taking," Dr Boss said.

Geia was released on unconditional bail and will reappear in February.

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