Tony Iltis, Melbourne
Activists from the Western Suburbs Community Coalition Against Racism (WSCCAR) picketed the Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 12 to protest charges laid against TAFE student Hussein Farah.
He has been charged with five counts including resisting arrest and assaulting police. In November, 350 people marched on the Footscray police station in response to allegations that Farah was assaulted by police.
Farah claims that, while travelling to Footscray by train to attend class on October 7, he was subjected to obscenities and racial and religious abuse by police transit patrol officers. At Footscray Station he was searched and detained in public for 20 minutes, in a manner which he found humiliating, so he suggested they move to the police station to clear up the matter.
According to Fareh, at the police station he had a chair pulled from underneath him and, while on the ground, was kicked unconscious by several officers. While this happened, he was subjected to more racial and religious abuse, and called a "terrorist" and "Osama bin Laden".
At the time of the alleged assault, Farah was not charged with any offence. Charges were laid after the WSCCAR was formed to organise the November rally against police racism and violence. WSCCAR spokesperson Linda Waldron told Green Left Weekly that,"We suspect the charges being brought against Hussein are to punish him for speaking out and scapegoat him for bringing these issues into the open". Farah refused to bow to police pressure to call the rally off.
According to police, Farah punched an officer in the stomach, allegations which defence lawyer James Dowsley said would be "vigorously denied".
Dowsley told the court that: "The allegation will be he was in fact assaulted at the Footscray police station and left in an unconscious state outside that police station."
Dowsley told media outside the court that if Farah's version of events was proved, "it will represent a very poor state of affairs within the Victorian police force", adding that police minister Andre Haermeyer should take note.
The case was adjourned to be heard at Sunshine Magistrates Court on September 20. Waldron, also a Socialist Alliance candidate for Gellibrand, said that the WSCCAR would continue to campaign in solidarity with Farah and has organised a petition calling for a full independent inquiry into allegations of police racism and violence in Victoria.
From Green Left Weekly, February 18, 2004.
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