Riot ringleader out on parole

July 19

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has defended parole conditions banning the ringleader of the Palm Island riots from speaking to the media or addressing public meetings.

But the matter could go to court after indigenous leaders expressed their outrage.

Lex Wotton was sentenced to six years jail in November 2008 for inciting the burning down of the north Queensland island’s police station and an officer’s residence in 2004.
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The riots were sparked by the death in police custody of Aboriginal man Cameron Doomadgee in November 2004.

Wotton, a former Palm Island councillor, was released on parole on Monday under the condition he does not attend public meetings on Palm Island without prior approval and he does not speak to the media.

The conditions have angered indigenous activists and lawyers who say it’s in violation of international human rights law.

Ms Bligh said the conditions were no different to parole conditions given to other prisoners.

“You will find the conditions for this prisoner very similar to conditions imposed on many prisoners who are being paroled from prison,” she told reporters on Monday.

A Queensland Corrective Services spokesman said the no media access condition on a parole order was a standard part of the legislation.

But Black and White Justice Foundation director Stewart Levitt believes it’s unusual to prohibit a public spokesman and former politician from attending a public meeting.

“We will be seeking the go-ahead from Lex to take this to a Queensland court,” Mr Levitt said.

“They infringe the international covenant on civil and political rights, which Australia has ratified.

“Nelson Mandela came out of 27 years of jail and was able to run for president right away and that was under the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Gracelyn Smallwood, from the Townsville Indigenous Human Rights Committee, said Queensland was the only state in Australia that didn’t allow prisoners on parole to talk to the media.

She said Wotton should have freedom of speech.

“Over the last six-and-a-half years, with the death in custody on Palm Island, there has been no justice – the police officer involved has walked a free man … with a compensation payout,” she said.

“Lex is the only one who has gone to jail for a period of time.”

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey welcomed Wotton back home but believed the conditions were excessive.

“They are putting more conditions on Lex Wotton they are putting into the CMC (Crime and Misconduct Commission) report into disciplining police officers,” he said.

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