Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Recriminations fly as accused face funeral ban

By Mark Todd in Brisbane
December 7, 2004

The alleged ringleader of last month's Palm Island riot has been freed on bail as the activist Murrandoo Yanner castigated the country's Aboriginal leadership, saying the north Queensland community had been abandoned.

A packed Townsville District Court erupted in applause yesterday as Lex Wotton, 37, was bailed until March 10. Eighteen other men were freed on their own undertaking. The police prosecutor, Julia Cook, opposed bail, telling the Chief Magistrate, Marshall Irwin, the accused had threatened to kill police and had pelted them with rocks.

The riot, in which the police station was fire-bombed and the courthouse burned, followed the release of autopsy results for Cameron Doomadgee, who died in police custody shortly after his arrest for public drunkenness.

The report found he had four broken ribs and died from a ruptured liver - injuries consistent with his falling on a hard surface.

The men were released on nine conditions, including that they do not return to Palm Island or attend Mr Doomadgee's funeral, expected to be held this week.

Mr Yanner, a cousin of Mr Doomadgee, welcomed the release of the men but was disappointed at the "almost cruel" conditions. He said the direction not to attend the funeral was likely to further harden attitudes.

"In our culture it brings great shame and is a lack of respect to miss the funeral," he said outside the Townsville courthouse.

Mr Yanner criticised Aboriginal leaders for not speaking out more stridently about Mr Doomadgee's death. "Shame, shame, shame," he said. "Where the hell is the Aboriginal leadership of Australia?

"If they can't get off their arse and get to Townsville and Palm Island then at least they can pick up the phone and do some interviews. It's pathetic." Mr Yanner would not identify anyone but said there were "clearly 10 or 20 big shots missing in action here".

with AAP