By Dave Donaghy TOWNSVILLE, November 16, 2006: The accused Palm Island riot ringleader has called for charges to be laid against the police officer responsible for the watchhouse death of an Indigenous man. Lex Wotton said the North Queensland Island community needed to see justice brought against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, who has been stood down with full pay from his duties on the Gold Coast. Acting state coroner Christine Clements found in September this year that Snr Sgt Hurley had landed the fatal blows that killed Mulrunji Doomadgee in 2004.
Wotton, whose trial on rioting charges begins in Brisbane on March 5, said the Island's reconciliation process could fail if the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) elects not to press charges against Snr Sgt Hurley. "So that when this man is in handcuffs and the DPP lays charges then the community will feel better," Mr Wotton said. "The community needs to see a lot of justice. That's not just Palm but all Indigenous communities across Australia." Wotton said the drawn-out ordeal had "strengthened" him and the Palm Island community. Mulrunji died on November 19, 2004 with an autopsy into his death finding the 36-year-old died from a ruptured liver and portal vein. The results triggered riots on Palm Island. Since the coroner released her findings, Snr Sgt Hurley has received overwhelming support from the Queensland Police Union, with the organisation's president, Gary Wilkinson, labelling the report a "witch hunt".
Mr Wotton, who still lives on Palm Island, was in Sydney yesterday to address the launch of the Errol Wyles Justice Foundation. The foundation was named after Errol Wyles, a 15-year-old Indigenous youth, who was run over and killed in 2003, shortly after being denied entry to a party in Townsville. The 20-year-old white man who was driving the car that struck Errol received a four-year sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 15 months. Board member Stewart Levitt, who also represents Wotton, said the foundation was established to pursue justice for Indigenous Australians, particularly for those in north Queensland. Mr Levitt said the acting state coroner's findings into Mulrunji's death gave weight to Mr Wotton's defence after the trial was sensationally moved from Townsville to Brisbane. Mr Wotton claimed he could not receive a fair trial in the North Queensland centre. - AAP For more on the Palm Island riots, please see the related links. Related Links
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