Sunday, July 18, 2010

Melbourne thugs face court for Indian-bashing

Two groups of young men have been in court these last few weeks over unrelated incidents of assault on Indian students last year in the Western suburbs Melbourne.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Three young men drove around searching for an Indian to rob before setting on a student in a phone booth and bashing him unconscious, a court has heard.

The Victorian County Court heard Aleksander Trifunovic drove his friends Shayne Comensoli and Lennon Metaxas around Melbourne's west, looking for an Indian person to rob on the night of October 15, 2009.
Comensoli and Metaxas, who had been drinking at a local hotel, spotted Indian student Lucky Singh, 23, in a phone booth in Sunshine.
The 20-year-olds got out of the car and attacked him about 1.30am.
Prosecutor Amelia Macknay said the pair believed a person of Indian ethnicity was most likely to have cash on them.
During the assault, Metaxas punched Mr Singh in the face so hard he fell to the ground.
Comensoli held him while Metaxas punched him repeatedly as Mr Singh screamed in pain and fear.
Comensoli repeatedly said, "Shut up, you Indian mother******," and then said, "Now it's my turn".
He swapped places with Metaxas and delivered more blows.
Mr Singh was hit up to 20 times to his head and face and curled up on the ground covering his head with his arms.
But the pair picked him up, dumped him on a park bench and continued the attack.
Mr Singh was left bleeding and unconscious on the footpath, suffering bone fractures, severe swelling and bruising.
The pair stole $80 in cash from his wallet and split it between them, then called for Trifunovic, 20, to collect them.
Mr Singh, who had been living in Victoria for eight months, said in his victim statement the attack had shattered his confidence and he suffered flashbacks. "I'm too scared to walk at night," he said. "My life has completely changed. I feel scared to go outside."
Mr Singh said he had thought Australians were welcoming and friendly but had changed his mind.
Police arrested the trio soon after the assault.
Trifunovic told police the pair had offered him $10 for his role but he refused the money. He said the trio had driven around Sunshine looking for an Indian for "10 minutes, tops".
Comensoli pleaded guilty to intentionally causing serious injury and robbery, while Trifunovic pleaded guilty to aiding a robbery.
Defence barrister Ron Tait denied there was a racial aspect to Trifunovic's crimes.
He said the crime was shocking but his client was still young with a clean record, and asked that he be spared jail.
The crown called for jail terms for Comensoli and Trifunovic. County Court Judge Meryl Sexton said she would need to consider what part racism played in the attack. Comensoli's pre-sentencing hearing was adjourned pending a psychology and youth justice report. Metaxas was sentenced in March to three years in a youth justice centre, after pleading guilty to intentionally causing serious injury and robbery.

From this story we can see a pattern that is becoming all too common. If they wanted money, they could have threatened Singh and he would have given it to them. But instead, clearly the motivation was the rush of inflicting their violence and dominance on another individual. And while not all the assaults on Indians in Melbourne have been racist in nature, only a fool (or a defence barrister) would deny the spectre of racism here. Racism, to my mind, not only motivated their choice to target Lucky Singh, but influenced their decision to severely beat him rather than just rob and scare him.

Also from Melbourne, this time the Herald-Sun:


A GANG of youths whose bashing of an Indian man blinded him in one eye have all avoided jail.

Majang Ngor, 20, the last of the gang to face court, was yesterday given an eight-month suspended jail term for the unprovoked attack on Kanan Kharbanda (pictured below). Prosecutors had wanted him jailed for four years.
But Judge Susan Cohen said this would be unjust, given the penalties imposed on gang members who were more culpable. Ngor hadn't been an instigator or a ringleader.
At least three other youths - who can't be named because of their age - were given nine-month youth supervision orders in the Children's Court. The Director of Public Prosecutions is appealing against those sentences. Ngor pleaded guilty in the County Court to recklessly causing serious injury, intentionally causing injury, robbery, and attempted robbery over the March 2008 bashing. Mr Kharbanda, an accounting student, had been walking a friend to Sunshine station. One of Ngor's group demanded a dollar before hitting Mr Kharbanda in the face. Others joined in, kicking and punching; his friend was also hit and kicked to the ground. Mr Kharbanda suffered a fractured eye socket and broken nose. He has lost the sight in his right eye.
Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said it was beyond belief that the youths had been let off "scot free". "It's disgraceful. The Indian community has the right - all citizens have the right - to be up in arms about it," he said.
Ngor told police they'd been drinking at a party and one of the group had suggested they go "hustling".
He admitted joining the pack, but denied striking either victim.
Judge Cohen said the Sudanese refugee had since worked hard to reform himself. To his credit he'd finished year 12, got a stable job, and had stopped binge-drinking. She said he hadn't caused the worst injuries, but had helped those who did. Violence at railway stations was of major public concern, but the matter was "less serious" than if weapons had been used. The judge suspended the jail term for 15 months and ordered Ngor to do 40 hours of community work, saying the greatest public benefit would come from his rehabilitation.
Shadow attorney-general Robert Clark said it was extraordinary that none would spend time behind bars and said it is weak sentencing laws that allowed the gang members to walk free.
"The victim of this crime will suffer a lifetime sentence with his injuries while the offenders are being let off with just a few hours of community service," he said.
"Imposing suspended sentences does nothing to build respect for the law, yet under John Brumby's weak sentencing laws vicious crimes like this bashing will continue to qualify for suspended sentences. In contrast, a Baillieu Government will abolish suspended sentences for all crimes so that jail will mean jail," he said.

Obviously there has been an angry reaction to this soft sentence; however it is important to remember that Ngor apparently did not take part in the actual beating, but was merely part of the group that did so. In any case, the real injustice seems to be that the other youths involved, who presumably did actively attack Kharbanda, could not be given any meaningful punishment because of their young age. Considering that Melbourne is currently experiencing an upsurge of violence by teenagers, the toothlessness of the legal system when sentencing them is no doubt a contributing factor.

Want another example? Try this one from Adelaide:

A group of international students, mostly Indians, in the Australian city of Adelaide are living in constant fear after a gang fire-bombed three of their cars Tuesday, the latest incident in a series of continuing attacks that have damaged 12 cars in three months.

The students, who live in a block of 13 South Australian Student Housing Association units in Greenacres, say the early morning fire-bomb attack has left the residents very worried. Adelaide Now quoted Yasif Multani, 28, as saying that a group of up to 15 local teenagers were believed to be responsible for the string of attacks. Two vehicles owned by Multani were torched in the early hours of Tuesday.
He said the attacks had led to more than 12 cars being damaged in the past three months, mail being stolen from letter boxes, racist graffiti being painted and garbage bins being emptied on the streets. Car windscreens have also been smashed in the complex and one night a couch on a veranda was set ablaze. Multani said a friend of his saw a teenager on a bicycle throw a petrol bomb through the windscreen of a car early Tuesday.
"These people know when we are here and when we are working. They watch us. They know everything we do. They know which cars are ours and they have not damaged the cars of non-international students parked in this area. People are scared. At night time (the offenders) are banging on the doors and running away," Multani said.

Predictably, the police are claiming there is no evidence of racism, and the Indian media are describing it as a racial attack. Whether it is racial or not, one can't help but get the feeling that the police would downplay racism every time, and the Indian media would see racism every time. In this instance I suspect the Indian media might have it right though.


UPDATE:
Just came across this at The Australian, dated July 15:

BRISBANE's Indian community fears it could fall prey to the same outbreaks of racial violence that have gripped Sydney and Melbourne.

There have been two attacks on their students at the same suburban railway station in two months.
In the most recent assault, 23-year-old Sukdeb was stabbed in the neck and chest, and beaten with a tree branch by two young white men, who are still at large. One of the knife wounds penetrated his chest, missing his heart by just 5cm. "They attacked us straight away . . . I tried to speak to him, but he stabbed me," Sukdeb told the Nine Network yesterday. "They were totally drunk. They don't know what they were doing." Sukdeb has been recovering at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, and could be released today.
Coopers Plains station, which is just 1km from Griffith University's Nathan campus, was also the scene of an attack last month, in which an Indian student was attacked and robbed.
Griffith University Indian Students Association president Parth Raval said the student was attacked from behind, his attackers banging his head against a pillar.


See also: Addressing the myths and misconceptions about violence against Indians in Australia

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