Monday, 27 October 2008

Sam Watson: Protest Lex Wotton's shameful conviction!

Media release: October 26, 2008

Socialist Alliance Indigenous Rights Spokesperson and Aboriginal activist Sam Watson has called for major rallies in cities across Australia in response to Palm Island Aboriginal man Lex Wotton being found guilty on October 24 of “rioting with destruction”.

Watson said: ``This verdict was business as usual in the sovereign state of Queensland. Aboriginal people are absolutely outraged. You have an all-white court: a white judge, white lawyers, a white jury deciding on the merits of a case that involves very deep Aboriginal cultural issues.”

``This is classic Alabama-style justice from the mid-50s”, Watson continued. ``But the matter does not end here. They may think they've silenced the black community by jailing courageous leader in Lex Wotton, but what they have done is light a flame that will burn a long time in the heart and soul of Aboriginal people, in this state and around Australia.”

The Palm Island uprising occurred after 36-year-old Mulrunji was taken into police custody without charge, and was dead within an hour, with massive internal injuries. Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, who only faced charges after a massive public campaign forced the Queensland government to act, admitted in court that he “must have been responsible” for the injuries, including Mulrunji's liver being cleaved in two.

However, the all-white Townsville jury acquitted Hurley, accepting that Mulrunji's death was caused by an "accidental fall".

Watson noted that during the trial against Wotton, Officer Darren Robinson, who was a key witness in both the charges against Wotton and the acquittal of Hurley, admitted to lying in a previous serious allegation against Hurley.

“He had said there were no witnesses to allegations by a Palm Island woman that Hurley had deliberately run over her foot, for which she had to be taken to hospital. Robinson later admitted to having the names of two witnesses in a police logbook.”

Testimony from Robinson and other Palm Island police alleged that Wotton was wielding weapons, smashing police station windows, and distributing tins of petrol.

Watson commented: “Wotton's barrister, Clive Steirn, accused Queensland police of ‘lying through their teeth’ to convict his client. He said that ‘not only was Lex Wotton never a part of any riotous assembly, he did his level best to stop the violence.”

Watson concluded: "A white police officer admits he caused an Aboriginal man's death, yet he walks free. A black man, who can't be connected to anything except that he was on Palm Island on the day, is fitted up for jail.

“There is no justice for Aboriginal people within the courts of Queensland.”

In Brisbane, a protest against the decision will take place on Saturday, November 1 at 12 noon at Queens Park, marching on state parliament.

  • Watch video of Lex speaking in Melbourne before the trial.
  • National Indigenous Times: LEX WOTTON TRIAL: Jury returns GUILTY verdict
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