Police stand guard in Hyde Park during the 2012 protests over a film mocking Islam. Photo: AFP
A former professional boxer who was allegedly tortured in a Lebanese jail has been sentenced to at least two-and-a-half years' jail for bashing a Sydney policeman during the 2012 Muslim protests in central Sydney.
Ahmed Elomar, 31, who counts Anothony Mundine and Jeff Fenech as friends, was among a small group of young Muslim men who clashed with police when about 300 people took part in an unauthorised protest against an online video deriding the Prophet Mohammed on September 15, 2012.
The Downing Centre District Court heard on Thursday that after initially throwing bottles and sticks at officers trying to restrain the crowd, Elomar, a boxer with about 22 professional fights, clashed directly with police near Hyde Park.
After a senior constable was stunned by a punch from one of Elomar’s fellow protesters, the then 29-year-old lunged forward with a wooden pole carrying a black flag.
‘‘He hit the senior constable on the top left side of his head, visibly bending the pole,’’ Judge Donna Woodburne said in her sentencing remarks.
‘‘[The victim] felt immediate pain, blood flowed from a wound on the top of his head. Elomar ran into the protesters and handed the pole to others.’’
When the victim's colleagues eventually found Elomar in Hyde Park he resisted arrest, thrashing wildly and then attempting to spit on an officer after he was placed in a prison van.
He eventually pleaded guilty to recklessly causing actual bodily harm to an officer in the execution of his duty.
Judge Woodburne described the attack as ‘‘cowardly’’.
‘‘The offender launched an unprovoked attack on the senior constable, who was doing no more than his duty while confronted by aggressive males,’’ she said.
‘‘The offender didn’t know the senior constable. Rather he chose to hit a man who had done no more than get up that day, put his uniform on and go to do the work that is expected by someone in his position.’’
Judge Woodburne acknowledged that the protest didn’t result in an injury to members of the public and that most of those involved protested peacefully.
But she rejected suggestions by Elomar’s lawyers that the police behaviour on the day, which included using capsicum spray, was provocative.
However, her honour did acknowledge Elomar’s special circumstances, specifically an intellectual impairment which made him more susceptible to the influence of religious and political extremists who were ‘‘more intelligent than he was’’.
This impairment the court heard, appeared to derive from a range of sources, including epilepsy, being knocked out on multiple occasions as a boxer and a bridge fall which crushed a number of vertebrae.
The court heard that Elomar is also suffering from post traumatic stress disorder sustained when, during a visit to Lebanon, he was allegedly arrested, starved and tortured for a number of days.
The attack on the police officer during the 2012 protest was not Elomar’s first apparently politically motivated attack.
In June of the same year he was among a group of young Muslim men who assaulted a man outside a bookshop in Bankstown and then threatened to burn a neighbouring business down.
Nonetheless, he continued to have ‘‘very strong community support’’.
Among a tranche of references tendered before the court were letters from former world champion boxers Jeff Fenech and Anthony ‘‘The Man’’ Mundine.
‘‘Mr Fenech has urged the court to give the offender a second chance, saying he was given a second chance and became one of the world’s greatest boxers,’’ Judge Woodburne said.
Elomar’s hopes for the future were more modest, the court heard, being limited to ‘‘going home, getting a job, and leading a normal life’’.
With time served, Elomar will be eligible for release on March 3, 2016.
His maximum sentence is four years and eight months.