Wotton ‘stripped of basic rights’

Issue 

In November 2008, Palm Island man Lex Wotton was convicted of "incitement to riot” and sentenced to six years' jail. His charge followed the Aboriginal community uprising and protest after the death in police custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee in November 2004.

Wotton was released on July 19 after 19 months in jail, on condition that he does not speak to the media for four years, attend rallies or public meetings without prior approval from the authorities, or attend events where gambling is involved. He is also required to attend the community elders' group as directed, the July 21 Brisbane Courier-Mail reported.

The decision has upset Palm Island residents: gambling is popular and there are often community rallies, the Courier-Mail said.

On July 21, Murri community leader and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for Queensland Sam Watson responded to the conditions imposed on Wotton by the parole board.

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At a time when every adult Australian is being given the opportunity to express their basic democratic right to vote in the coming federal election, we have an appalling situation on Palm Island in which an Aboriginal man is being stripped of the basic right to talk to the press, attend public meetings or speak his mind.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said these kinds of restrictions were common for prisoners on parole. In my 40 years' experience dealing with the criminal justice system in this state, I have never encountered any other prisoner placed on similar conditions of parole.

The Queensland government is running scared and is under the thumb of the Queensland Police Union.

With Criminal Justice Commission recommendations now before the courts, senior police officers involved in the police investigation into Mulrunji’s death could be charged with serious criminal offences. Aboriginal people are concerned that we could see a return to the bad old days of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen regime, when a racist system dominated and our community had no rights at all.

Every fair-minded Australian must now rally behind Lex Wotton, write a letter or sign a petition, as part of a major campaign calling on the Queensland government to immediately lift these abhorrent restrictions on his ability to talk to his own community or the general public.

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