Coming down heavily on racist attacks, an Australian court in Melbourne has sentenced an attacker of an Indian student, who went into a coma after being brutally beaten up, to over four years in jail with the Judge observing that such incidents rightly provoked international and local community outrage.
Judge Pamela Jenkins sentenced 21-year-old Zakarie Hussein to four-and-a-half years' jail with a minimum non-parole period of two years, saying that such racist attacks need to be condemned.
28-year-old Indian student Sukhraj Singh was attacked by Zakarie and a gang that rampaged an Indian grocery store last year and left him in coma for 15 days. The incident which was beamed worldwide created an outrage in India.
This was the first sentencing in a case involving attack on Indian students. Australia has recently been hit by a spate of attacks especially on Indians with more than 30 community members being taregtted in last three months.
The city based county court heard that the incident that left the Indian student in coma with permanent brain disabilities was just a "sheer thrill" for the attackers, The Age newspaper reported today.
Prosecutors told the court that last December, the gang of seven youths, who were drunk and carrying wooden sticks, raided an Indian grocery store in Sunshine and shouted "are you Indian?" and randomly struck their victims.
Singh was beaten unconscious and spent months in hospital and rehabilitation after being struck three times on the head and receiving blows on the body, the report said.
Judge Jenkins said the group had deliberately targeted victims of Indian ethnicity in the "unprovoked rampage".
The accused Hussein of Somali origin had pleaded guilty to armed robbery, recklessly causing serious injury, and six counts of recklessly causing injury.
Judge Jenkins said Hussein had not used his wooden weapon but had planned before being knocked out of the way by a co-offender. She said the victims had tried to cower from their attackers and had done nothing to provoke the attack.
The youths had been drinking beer in a park for about four hours before they went to the store in City Place just after 6.30 pm where two of the teens began a racist argument with two customers, the court heard.
About five minutes later, the pair returned with their friends, armed with wooden bars and one with a fluorescent light tube, and began smashing up the store and indiscriminately striking customers and staff as they yelled "are you Indian?" and "bloody Indians, f--- off".
The shop's cash register was stolen and the loot divided up among the offenders. Hussein received about AUS$15.
In a victim impact statement tendered to the court, Singh said metal plates had been inserted into his face. He shed up to 15 kilograms and been left with lumps and scars on his head from the assault.