New South Wales police have sought to confiscate and auction a station wagon belonging to a young climate activist after it was seized during her arrest last month.
Activist group Blockade Australia says the car is the property of 26-year-old Sasha, who was arrested in the vehicle on 17 November. She was on a public road near the Port of Newcastle.
The group says Sasha has faced court and pleaded guilty to separate charges of attempting to hinder mining equipment and attempting to hinder a railway.
She was convicted and given a 24-month community corrections order, and “thousands of dollars” in fines. She was also given a year-long “non-association” order relating to her partner.
Sasha was subsequently given a “freezing notice” by police that her car, a 2018 Hyundai Kona station wagon, would remain in the possession of police under the NSW Proceeds of Crime Act.
The notice is a temporary measure that freezes the asset until a court can make an ultimate decision on whether it should be forfeited to the state.
The Act also covers the forfeiture of “tainted property” used in the commission of an offence – although it is highly unusual for police to pursue forfeiture for offences where a court does not impose a prison sentence.
A criminal lawyer told Guardian Australia that – without knowing the specific circumstances of the alleged offences or the woman’s arrest – it seemed like a “long bow” to connect the car to the woman’s activism.
Police said they could not comment because the forfeiture matter was before the court.
Blockade Australia said Sasha had been mostly living in the car, which was registered in Queensland.
“This demonstration of intimidation and repression against a young activist highlights the deeply political nature of the police and courts,” the group’s statement said.
“They exist to serve the interests of the select few who are set on digging up the Earth until there’s nothing left. Australia has always used repression tactics for control – against First Nations people, and poor and marginalised people, who formed its original prison colony. We know that a car is trivial in comparison to the lives Australia steals constantly.
“Australia will, like always, use whatever it can to protect itself. For the rest of us, everything is at stake. Seizing a car, banning people from associating with their friends and families, sentencing someone to a year in prison: these repression tactics pale in comparison to the consequences of inaction.”
About 30 anti-fossil fuel activists were arrested in November during a series of coordinated protests targeting the world’s largest thermal coal export port at Newcastle. One campaigner, Eric Serge Herbert, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.