On 18 July, Aboriginal political prisoner, Lex Wotton, was released from jail after serving a minimum two-year non-parole period. In 2008, Wotton was found guilty of riot with destruction by an all-white jury and sentenced to a six-year jail term. But Wotton’s supporters argue that the spontaneous protests on Palm Island were a righteous response to yet another death in custody. The community had no confidence in the system and feared another cover up — concerns that have been horribly vindicated.
The double standards are breathtaking. Wotton — a respected community leader — has spent two years behind bars. In contrast, the investigation into the death of Mulrunji was scandalously flawed. Chris Hurley, the police officer responsible for the death in custody, has been promoted and compensated. Other police officers received bravery awards for their role in harassing the traumatised community.
It’s crystal clear that capitalist law cannot deliver justice for the people of Palm Island. But despite the efforts of the Queensland government to bury the issues, a determined community, backed by an active movement, has succeeded in keeping the 2004 death and the subsequent events in the public eye.
His release is very good personal news for both Lex and his family. But there’s still a big political fight ahead. Harsh parole conditions hang over him. The worst are that he has been politically gagged, denied the right to speak to the media and to attend pubic meetings. His lawyers have lodged an appeal against the media gag and supporters are seizing every opportunity to protest these conditions.
The Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne has launched an international petition protesting the gag. For a copy, email: email@example.com. The group is also holding a public meeting: Injustice Queensland Style: Learning the lessons from Palm Island on Tuesday, 24 August, 7 pm at Solidarity Salon, 580 Sydney Road, Brunswick.
Lex Wotton is an inspirational advocate for the people of Palm Island whose voice is needed to expose the shameful truth behind the death of Mulrunji and everything that followed.