Christian leaders 'strip searched' over political prayer vigil

Christian leaders have allegedly been strip searched at a peaceful protest at the office of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Fifty-three Christian leaders were arrested or removed from the offices of politicians on Wednesday as part of a nationwide prayer vigil to protest the detention of asylum seeker children.

Eight of the participants, including a mother praying with her young baby, were allegedly strip searched before being formally charged with trespass after praying in the Perth office of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

A statement from the organisation behind the nationwide action, Love Makes A Way, stated that those involved were taken to the Perth Watch House.

Love Makes A Way’s national spokesperson Kate Leaney said church leaders were then “refused the opportunity to seek legal advice, stripped naked and searched”.

“The church leaders repeatedly expressed that they did not consent to the search, and repeatedly advised police that they were not in possession of firearms or drugs,” she said.

“While we are disappointed that a group of Christians who had been praying peacefully for eight hours in the one spot were suddenly being strip-searched for drugs and weapons, this indignity is nothing compared to the horrors faced on a daily basis by the children and families that our nation holds in offshore detention centres.”

A spokeswoman for the Western Australian Police could niether deny or confirm their claims.

In a statement provided to SBS, the spokeswoman said that police negotiated with the protesters for more than an hour.

"The group were fully advised they would face charges and as such undergo standard procedures at the Perth Watch House if they did not comply," she said.

"The protestors still refused to leave and were arrested and conveyed to the Perth Watch House. Five women and three men were charged with trespass and will appear in court at a later date."

The sit-ins, which coincided with Human Rights Day , also resulted in arrests at other locations around Australia:

  • Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's Sydney office (9 arrests, released without charge)
  • Attorney-General George Brandis' Brisbane office (5 arrests, released without charge)
  • Senator Zed Seselja's Canberra office (5 arrests, released without charge)
  • Jamie Briggs' Adelaide office (5 arrested, formally charged with trespass)
  • Josh Frydenberg's Melbourne office (10 people forcibly removed, released without charge)
  • Kelly O'Dwyer's Melbourne offices (11 people forcibly removed, released without charge)

'All of the children in detention on Christmas Island will be released'

The vigils also coincided with an address by Attorney-General George Brandis on asylum seekers.

Speaking at a human rights event in Sydney, Senator Brandis congratulated his government for stopping asylum seeker vessels and releasing children from detention.

“When the government was elected, we found that there were 1992 children in detention,” he said.

“In 2014, most of those children have been released… Between now and Christmas, in the next two to three weeks, all of the children in detention on Christmas Island will be released.”

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told SBS that "the government will be bringing the children on Christmas Island to the mainland before Christmas, to be included in the legacy caseload".

The nationwide arrests come after the adoption of new migration laws by the Senate earlier this month, which advocates fear could result in children being deported to Nauru.

The new migration laws may be challenged in the High Court by lawyers claiming they breach Australia's human rights obligations.

They also followed a landmark court ruling in October, determining that babies born in detention on Australian soil are not able to claim refugee status.

A total of 138 arrests have now been made since Love Makes A Way began holding prayer vigils, the first at Mr Morrison’s office in March.

Source World News Australia

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