Yesterday (Saturday, 29th), three of Fredrick's friends, myself included, visited him at Cadell Training Centre. It was a two and a half hour drive to Cadell, which is located 180 km from Adelaide.
We arrived just before 2pm, running late as we had planned to arrive at 1pm. Upon arrival we entered the gates, parked our vehicle and went to the visitors office. We were met by quite friendly prison officers, and given a form to complete with our personal particulars, and identification. After checking this and our IDs, we had to place any keys or money in a locker provided and then have our bodies scanned with a hand held metal detector, after which we passed through the glass doors to the visitors area.
We were greeted by quite a pleasant surrounding, approximately 20 picnic style benches under some leafy gum trees. About 10 of these benches were occupied by varying groups of visitors, obviously family and friends. One of the guards had gone to inform the prisoner of our arrival, and after a couple of minutes we saw a figure approaching from the surrounding buildings. At first I was unsure if this was Fredrick. I had never seen him wearing Jeans!! He also looked much younger than the last time that I had seen him, on the day that he was imprisoned, 13th August, just over 2 weeks ago.
At first Fredrick, displaying his particular sense of humour, pretended to have lost his mind and seemed to have been in a state of consciousness reminiscent of someone who has had a frontal-lobotomy, and pretended not to know us. We all sensed that everything was fine, and after some very warm and emotional greetings, we all sat down at the nearby picnic table.
Fredrick told us all about his experiences at Yatala Prison where he had been for 2 weeks. In his words, "It was a character building exercise". Some of his experiences were obviously quite unpleasant, but he likened the whole thing to doing basic military training, or boarding school. He praised the guards of both prisons, telling us that they do a good job, and were working in very difficult environments.
Physically, Dr Töben was in fine shape. He told us that he had lost five and a half kilograms. He was a totally different picture from that of a few weeks ago, when the strain of being persecuted for over 13 years was starting to show its effect. He had been looking very tired, exhausted and ragged. Mentally, one could see that he was tight and strained. He had put on a little weight, which made his clothing seem a little too small for him. Now he was beaming and looked to be at least 10 years younger than before. The rest was obviously doing him good. I still could not come to grips with his prison garb. Jeans that were rolled up at the ankles, obviously too long for him, a blue sloppy-joe and prison wind-cheater. It did not seem to fit his character at all. His usual attire is a smart suit. This is his usual all-purpose uniform, wearing it for all manner of occasions from picnics to the theatre, even bushwalking!
Fredrick shares a cell with another fellow, with whom he gets on well. They are locked in each night at 9pm and released again at 7am. There is a good library at the prison, and the food is good. This is a low security installation, but the discipline is still very strict. The prisoners know that it is very much a privilege to be there which can just as easily be taken away if they do not behave.
We spent the time discussing the events of the last few weeks. I passed on many greetings and wishes of support from his friends all around the world, and he wished me to pass on his thanks to all of his friends.
At 10 to 4 one of the guards came and told us that we had 10 minutes left, so we had our final words, Fredrick told us not to worry about him, he was fine.
And so we left, and spent the journey home reflecting on the lovely time that we had spent with our dear comrade and friend.
August 30, 2009
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