28 October 2011


20 OCTOBER 2011

Report in The Southern Star Observer:

Hate crime sentence to be appealed

Victoria Police may appeal a three-month suspended sentence handed to a Melbourne man for his part in a violent gay bashing on Sydney Rd last year.

The man, Billal Ali, was also fined $1500 and placed on a 12-month community-based order for the brutal attack which left a gay couple with bruising, cuts and one victim with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The incident occurred at 9.30pm on Christmas night 2010 when Ali and his cousin Houssain El Halabi, from a car, approached the two men who were holding hands.

Ali and El Halabi hurled homophobic abuse at the couple and Ali threw a bottle at the head of one of the victims before the two offenders set upon the pair, chasing them down and viciously kicking and punching them.

Two of Ali’s brothers, Haydar and Barry, later arrived at the scene and joined in the attack. The three Ali brothers were sentenced in the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court on Monday. Haydar Ali received a 12-month community-based order and was fined $1500 for his part in the attack.

Barry Ali was fined $1500.

In 2009 Victorian sentencing laws were amended to require judges to take into account crime motivated by hate or prejudice when handing down a sentence.

Magistrate Peter Mellas told the court he was satisfied, given the evidence, the victims had come to Billal Ali’s attention because of their sexual orientation.

However, in sentencing Haydar and Barry Ali, Mellas said he could not prove beyond reasonable doubt the pair were specifically motivated by prejudice in the attack.

Mellas rejected Billal Ali’s use of steroids, said to have given him ‘roid rage’, as an excuse for the attack.

El Halabi did not show up at the court for sentencing and a warrant for his arrest was issued. Victoria Police prosecutor Danielle Pastoors said an appeal will be lodged with the Office of Police Prosecutions (OPP) in the coming days to challenge the leniency of the sentence in line with changes to Victoria’s hate-crime sentencing laws.

Victoria Police launched its first-ever strategy to combat prejudice-motivated crime earlier this year to train police to better respond to hate-motivated crime.

The case is thought to be one of the first to test the state’s new sentencing laws on homophobic-motivated crime.

Anti-Violence Project Victoria convenor Greg Adkins told the Star Observer the outcome of the case does not clearly demonstrate that changes to sentencing laws are having an effect.

“It may take this case moving to a higher court before the gay and lesbian community can see the evidence that the prejudice motivation provision in sentencing is truly in operation,” he said.


From Courage to Resist web pages: 26 October 2011

Iraq War veteran critically wounded by Oakland police during Occupy crackdown

Please donate to Scott Olsen's medical fund

Oakland CA (October 26, 2011) - Scott Olsen, a Marine veteran who did two tours in Iraq, was hit by a police projectile during last night's brutal crackdown of Occupy Oakland (photos right). He is in serious but stable condition at an Oakland hospital. Friends have reported that Scott has a "skull fracture and swelling of the brain."

Scott is 24 years old, and was with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, before leaving the military last year. He is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, and a Courage to Resist supporter.

It's ironic that days after Obama's announcement of the end of the Iraq War, Scott faced a veritable war zone in the streets of Oakland last night. He and other protesters were surrounded by explosions and smoke (tear gas) going off around him as people nearby carried him injured while yelling for a medic.

27 October 2011


The following opinion piece was in The Age newspaper on 26 October 2011, and very much addresses the issues of police state mentality which rule the city, state and country at the moment!

Civil rights and crossing the line

Anna Brown

October 26, 2011

Council and police actions to evict city protesters raise serious questions.
Given Victoria Police use force, on average, every 2.5 hours, it seems they might have achieved their monthly quota in the space of last Friday morning. An alarming statistic when one considers that the spike was due not to a surge in knife crime or even petty theft, but a gathering of people seeking to exercise political freedoms protected under the law.

Whatever one's views on the Occupy Melbourne protesters and their aims, the decisions and actions taken by lord mayor Robert Doyle and the Victoria Police to forcibly evict peaceful demonstrators from City Square raise a number of serious questions about infringement of fundamental civil and political rights and the excessive use of force by Victoria Police. Importantly, in Victoria, these human rights have legal force, through the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, our version of a human rights act.

Doyle has a democratic duty as a public official, and a legal responsibility as a ''public authority'' under the charter, to act compatibly and give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions. These rights include freedom of expression and the right to peaceful political assembly, as well as the right to liberty and security of person. The decision to forcibly evict the protesters should be carefully scrutinised against these obligations.

'Police might have achieved their monthly quota of force last Friday morning.'

The onus lies on Melbourne City Council and Victoria Police to justify the necessity for the forcible eviction of the protesters. It is also incumbent upon the authorities to demonstrate the action taken was necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. It is difficult to see how the stated objectives of restoring the amenity and aesthetic of City Square could justify substantial interference with fundamental rights and freedoms.

Police have responded to criticism by stating that they were obliged to act after the council decision. Regardless of whether the decision to evict the protesters was lawful or not (and arguably it was not), the use of force by Victoria Police must comply with the law, in particular the legal responsibility to respect human rights when carrying out their duties.

Police officers should only use force as a last resort and only when strictly necessary. It should be used with the utmost restraint and in a manner that minimises damage and injury. For example, the use of capsicum spray is only justified if there is an imminent threat of serious injury and officers have attempted other non-violent means. It is incumbent upon Victoria Police to demonstrate the force used was necessary.

The use of temporary fencing to contain the protesters should also be scrutinised. ''Containment'' is a tactic used by police to contain and eventually disperse large groups of protesters. Victoria Police contained the Occupy Melbourne protesters with some success to effect their eviction from the City Square. The High Court in England considered this issue in relation to the G20 protests in London and police were found to have acted unlawfully in containing non-violent protesters. The court said containment of protesters was only justified in ''truly extreme and exceptional circumstances'' where no other means were available to prevent an imminent breach of the peace and only ''as a last resort catering for situations about to descend into violence''. It is difficult to see how Victoria Police's containment of protesters was justified measured against these threshold requirements.

Excessive use of force is not a new issue for Victoria Police. The Human Rights Law Centre and other community organisations have long campaigned for reform of the regulation, training and monitoring of police use of force. The events serve to underline the need for a fully independent, adequately resourced body to investigate police misconduct and incidents involving the excessive use of force. Such an independent investigatory body would not only reduce the risk of collusion or corruption, but increase public trust in police processes.

In recent years, Victoria Police has improved training on the use of force; including by promoting the importance of human rights and increasing the emphasis on communication and conflict de-escalation. Victoria Police has said that ''human rights protection is synonymous with good policing in liberal democratic societies''. The recent actions of Victoria Police in forcibly evicting peaceful protesters and suppressing the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, however, show further reform is necessary to ''uphold our rights''.

Anna Brown is director of advocacy and strategic litigation at the Human Rights Law Centre.

13 October 2011


Jeff Kennett has disgraced himself yet again with his beyondblue stories and his interview with David McCarthy at Joy Radio concerning Kennett's comments about gay families and the previous ones about paedophilia and homosexuality.

McCarthy's attempts to whitewash Kennett were also a disgrace and do Joy Radio no credit for hosting such a discussion.

Kennett ruined Victoria in the days when he was premier and he has done nothing since to alter the community's opinions about him. He closed hospitals, schools, railways, and performed all sorts of other disservices to the state and the country which caused the depressions and suicides which beyondblue is supposed to assist.

Gays, lesbians, transgenders, HIVs (GLTH) were never part of beyondblue's briefs as a previous CEO, Leonie Young, demonstrated when tasked with providing service modules for GLTH communities who might have had depression or suicidal ideation problems. Kennett's relationship with the organisation only aggravated an already troubled situation.

The other relic of a bygone day, another homophobe who is supposedly making overtures to the GLTH communities, has failed at the first hurdle. John Searle seems unable to establish any sort of contact or working relationship with Aleph, the Jewish Gay group, and there seems to be no evidence that Searle has any relationship with the Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria either. So where does this leave him, with his "anonymous" GLTH "Reference Group" which is supposed to be responding to the submissions received at JCCV's request in August, for which it received "about six submissions"

How do you receive "about six"??? You either receive 4, or 5, or 6, or more!! But not Searle!!

Is it not time that GLTH members of our communities who happen to be Jewish or who happen to need assistance with depression or suicidal intentions found organisations which willingly provide assistance without any discriminatory problems such as those associated with organisations such as beyonblue and Jewish Community Council of Victoria (sic)?

10 October 2011


The Sydney Star Observer (SSO) was, for many years, the leading gay weekly paper in Australia.

There was a wide coverage of news and there was a broad spectrum of community issues addressed in depth and with good reporting.

Newspapers are having a difficult time since the advent of so much information which is now available online. However there is no excuse for the deterioration in the quality of what is still presented in hard copy which comes out in print once a week.

The SSO editorial board has decided to drop the letters page in the print copy, informing readers who bother to query this that letters are no longer printed because they are all available online.

It would be interesting to see what would happen to those daily newspapers which stopped printing letters every day. They would assuredly lose readership which is already falling because of online availability and because the quality of the journalism presented to us these days is of such a poor standard due to the proprietors trying to toe the politicians' lines - or their own!!! think Rupert Murdoch!

The result is a weekly paper which is a waste of good paper. News is poor, journalism is poor, the information is poor and community support is poor.

What next for a paper that was once so good??

09 October 2011

South Africa Ignoring A Serial Killer Targeting Gay Men?

This story from the Huffington Post on 7 October is by David Lohr davidlohr@davidlohr.net

South Africa Ignoring A Serial Killer Targeting Gay Men?

A human rights organization in South Africa is accusing authorities of failing to properly investigate the deaths of four gay men. Local media outlets have suggested that the men are the victims of a homophobic serial killer.

"The continued use of culture in order to disguise criminal intent against LGBTI people has to be strongly condemned," said Javu Baloyi, a spokesman for the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), in a statement to The Huffington Post.

"The Commission is ... concerned about the long delays in cases relating to this issue. CGE views these acts as criminal acts and the perpetrators deserve to face the full might of the law," Baloyi said.

The victims, each in their 30s, were found dead between December 2010 and September 2011. All of the victims were bound and strangled, according to The Star.

The first victim, identified as 36-year-old Jim Cathels, was found dead in his Berea home in December 2010.

Roughly six months later, in June of this year, 33-year-old Reno Oscar O'Hara was found dead inside the home of Ivan Vladislavic, a South African short story author and novelist. O'Hara had been housesitting and was discovered by Vladislavic when he returned from a trip to the United Kingdom.

On Sept. 11, the body of Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo, 36, was found inside his flat in Kliptown, Soweto.

The latest victim, 39-year-old Barney van Heerden, was found dead in his Orange Grove home on Sept. 19. Half-full glasses of wine were found on a kitchen table, suggesting that Heerden may have known his attacker.

Heerden's case varies slightly from the others in that the killer poured acid onto the victim's body after death. Forensic specialist Dr. Mark Welman told The Star that the killer may have been attempting to destroy DNA evidence. Some, however, believe that there was a far more sinister motive.

"I find it more likely he brought acid as a method of torture [and] experimented with it," Washington, D.C.-based criminal profiler Pat Brown told The Huffington Post.

There were no signs of forced entry in any of the cases. Because of the similarities in the victim's sexual orientations and the fact that many of the men used Internet dating websites, local activists and media outlets have suggested that a serial killer could be responsible.

Earlier today, IOL News reported a possible fifth victim: Manolis Veloudos, a choreographer and dancer from Hyde Park, Johannesburg. Veloudos was found dead in his Greenside home in April 2010. Like the other victims, Veloudos was bound and murdered. Unlike the others, he was bludgeoned to death with his laptop.

According to Veloudos' niece, Evita Veloudos, there was surveillance camera footage of her uncle with an unknown man on the night of the murder. But IOL News reported that authorities have since lost the footage. If he was a murdered by the same killer, that would make Veloudos the first victim in the case.

The South African Police Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.

Speaking today with Looklocal News, SAPS provincial spokesperson Lt. Col. Lungile Dlamini said that the murders are being investigated as individual cases.

"We have excluded robbery as a motive but, at this stage, there is no further information that may suggest that the incidents are the work of a serial killer. Police are still following leads to identify suspects," Dlamini said.

Not everyone, however, is convinced.

"It would be remiss of investigating authorities to not consider possible links," Welman told The Star.

Brown agreed.

"There is unquestionably a serial killer loose in South Africa -- at least one," Brown told The Huffington Post. "Since there are Internet dating sites involved, no signs of breaking or entering, wine on the table, no items of major value missing and no sign of a struggle prior to the binding, we can eliminate burglary or hate killing as the motive. ... This is a serial killer who likes to watch his victims die -- a common enjoyment of most serial killers."

The CGE has yet to respond to Dlamini's comments. In the statement provided to HuffPost, Baloyi condemned the murders and called for a full investigation.

"It is our firm belief that the Department of Constitutional Development and Department of Justice have to come to the party by ensuring that gay people receive the necessary attention and that these murders are properly investigated," Baloyi said.

It is only a matter of time, Brown warns, before the killer strikes again.

"The police definitely need to analyze the similarities and connections between these crimes," she said. "This is a serial killer who will likely continue, although now he may change areas or methods of meeting his victims."

01 October 2011


The following report was in the Guardian newspaper on 22 September 2011:

Troy Davis campaigners vow to fight 'inhumane and inflexible' death penalty

Relatives and activists say execution in Georgia should act as a wake-up call to US politicians to abolish the death penalty
• Troy Davis execution: join our Flickr group
• Troy Davis execution goes ahead despite serious doubts
• Ten reasons why Troy Davis should not have been executed

Ed Pilkington in Jackson, Georgia
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 22 September 2011 18.06 BST
Article history

(photo not available)
Troy Davis campaigners
Troy Davis protesters in Jackson, Georgia. Activists said Davis's execution was a clear wake-up call to politicians across the US to have the death penalty abolished. Photograph: Stephen Morton/AP

In statistical terms, it may have been just another execution, a convicted murderer dispatched by prison medics with clinical efficiency. But, on the morning after the death by lethal injection of Troy Davis, there was no sign that the controversy over the case would be buried with him.

Davis was sent to his death despite a mass of evidence casting his 1991 conviction in doubt, including recantations from seven of the nine key witnesses at his trial for the murder of a police officer.

The execution has provoked an extraordinary outpouring of protest in Georgia, at the supreme court and White House in Washington, and in cities around the world.

Davis's case has become even more charged by the manner of his death: he was reprieved three times before Wednesday night and an intervention by the supreme court delayed the execution by four hours.

Relatives of Davis and civil rights leaders across the south vowed to fight on with the campaign to have the death penalty abolished.

Richard Dieter, the director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said it was a clear wake-up call to politicians across the US.

He said: "They weren't expecting such passion from people in opposition to the death penalty. There's a widely-held perception that all Americans are united in favour of executions, but this message came across loud and clear that many people are not happy with it."

Brian Evans of Amnesty, which led the campaign to spare Davis's life, said that there was a groundswell in America of people "who are tired of a justice system that is inhumane and inflexible and allows executions where there is clear doubts about guilt". He predicted the debate would now be conducted with renewed energy.

Martina Correia, Davis's sister, who kept vigil at the prison until the end, said that a movement had been formed that would transcend her brother's death.

Sitting in a wheelchair as she battles cancer, she said: "If you can get millions of people to stand up against this, we can end the death penalty."

The case has attracted high-profile backers, and the #RIPTroyDavis hashtag was trending on Twitter on Wednesday. Protesters with placards gathered outside the White House. But so far, national politicians have refrained from entering the debate.

Before the execution, White House press secretary Jay Carney said: "It is not appropriate for the president of the United States to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution."

Rick Perry, the leading contender for the Republican nomination and a strong supporter of the death penalty, has made no public statement on the Davis case.

His presence in the Republican race guarantees that the issue of capital punishment will remain in the spotlight in a way it hasn't for years. At a TV debate earlier this month, the audience cheered when the host noted Texas had executed 234 death row inmates during Perry's time as governor.

In Jackson, Georgia on Wednesday night, there were dramatic scenes outside the Diagnostic and Classification Prison, where Davis was pronounced dead at 11.08pm.

About 500 protesters, most of them African-American, lined up on the other side of the road to the entrance of the prison which was barricaded by a cordon of Swat police dressed in full riot gear and brandishing tear gas rifles.

Davis was executed for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, who was working off duty as a security guard when he intervened to help a homeless person being attacked. Davis was implicated by another man, Sylvester Coles, present at the time. But since the trial seven of the key witnesses have come forward to say their evidence was wrong, and others have testified under oath that Coles was the killer.

As he lay on the gurney, Davis once again declared his innocence, telling the family of MacPhail lined up behind a glass screen in front of him that the wrong person was about to die.

Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King had his ministry, said that though Davis's final hours were distressing, "through this, America is being transformed. This is one of those watershed moments when a human evil and injustice that is part of the norm suddenly becomes questioned and challenged."

Attention is now focusing on the American south. Though 34 of the 50 states still have the death penalty, only 12 states carried out executions last year, and now 80% of all executions take place in the south.

The south's history of racial segregation has also highlighted claims of racial bigotry. One of Davis's lawyers, Thomas Ruffin, has called his death a "legal lynching", pointing out that while black males make up 15% of the population of Georgia they fill almost half the cells on its death row.

The civil rights group the NAACP said it would step up its campaign to persuade states, particularly in the south, to abolish the death penalty. "States like Georgia have an ugly history of state-sanctioned executions like that of Troy Davis, and in our view they are reminiscent of the lynchings that happened in the deep south," said the NAACP's Steve Hawkins.

A further area of concern raised by the case is reliance on uncorroborated eyewitness accounts. Davis was convicted without any DNA or other forensic evidence, and the murder weapon was never found.

False witness evidence has been found to be a crucial factor in three-quarters of the cases where convicted prisoners were found to be innocent and were then exonerated. Al Sharpton, who attended the protests in Jackson, said he would be pressing for new legislation to ban death penalties in cases relying only on witness statements.

But it is unlikely that a new law overturning the practice could be passed in Washington. It is convention that individual states have control over death penalty rules, and the federal government can only lead by example in its own execution practices; it does not generally have the power to tell states like Georgia what to do.


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm