Australians who oppose lockdown measures are having a particularly hard time expressing their dissatisfaction with the government and, as well as police monitoring social media for dissenters, Magistrates are looking at new ways to suppress dissent – now resorting to getting access to the devices of those who are arrested.
Tony Pecora, 43, went as far as to bury his phone in his lawyer’s yard after he received police attention.
Pecora was charged with “incitement” this week after posting anti-lockdown sentiments on Facebook, encouraging people to speak out against the measures.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton stated that it would be a “grave injustice” if Pecora was kept in custody over the alleged offenses, since the maximum penalty is a fine.
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However, in order for Pecora to be released, he had to agree to conditions which included not going within 600 feet of the Victorian Parliament – where the protests were to be held – and, more worryingly, Pecora had to turn over his phone, computer, and passwords.
Pecora was also ordered to not interact online with other anti-lockdown supporters.
When police scoured social media and found Facebook posts in support of anti-lockdown protests, they searched Pecora’s home and seized two iPads.
When Pecora was ordered to turn himself in, that’s when he gave his laptop to a friend to look after and buried his phone in his lawyer’s yard. However, they were later obtained by police and Pecora was forced to turn over the passwords to be released.
Pecora’s lawyer, Christopher Wareham, in a statement, said that his client had a little criminal history and there was zero evidence that he had told people not to wear a mask or practice social distancing.