Federal court overturns judge, says Australia acted legally in turning away refugees
CANBERRA, Australia - The Australian government acted legally when it refused entry to 433 asylum seekers saved from a sinking Indonesian ferry by a Norwegian cargo ship, a court ruled yesterday.
The panel of Federal Court justices overturned by 2-1 an earlier ruling by a single judge. Yesterday's ruling cleared the way for the refugees to disembark from an Australian warship that took them to the Pacific island nation of Nauru after they were barred from Australia.
A separate group of 230 Iraqis and Palestinians who were picked up later were refusing to leave the warship, the HMAS Manoora.
A Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, rescued the refugees from the Indonesian vessel on Aug. 26 and tried to take them to Australia's Christmas Island. Australia refused to accept them, saying it was already flooded with refugees.
The decision sparked international outrage and a two-week standoff between Norway, Australia and Indonesia over who should accept the asylum seekers. Finally, Nauru and New Zealand promised to take the refugees so that their applications for political asylum could be processed. Australia is paying for all costs incurred by Nauru.
Chief Justice Michael Black dissented from yesterday's ruling, saying he would have dismissed the appeal.
Civil rights lawyers who had filed the legal complaint said last week they would not appeal if the full Federal Court ruled against them.
Prime Minister John Howard's refusal to accept the asylum seekers has been widely criticized abroad but boosted his popularity at home, with opinion polls showing 77 percent of people supported the action.
In the last week, the government has begun to use the terrorist attacks in the United States in its argument against illegal immigration, hinting that terrorists could sneak into Australia on boats from Indonesia.
On Monday, representatives from the International Office of Migration visited the group of 230 Iraqis and Palestinians who are refusing to leave the HMAS Manoora.
Officials said they were shouted down by men who are angry they have been brought to Nauru instead of Australia after selling their homes and paying up to $8,000 each to immigrant smugglers.
IOM regional representative Mark Getchell said the most vocal members of the group were also intimidating others who want to get off the ship.
Cinicinnati officer on trial for pre-riot shootings
CINCINNATI - A white police officer was not following proper procedures when he shot a fleeing, unarmed black man to death, a killing that led to riots this spring, a prosecutor said yesterday.
Officer Stephen Roach, 27, was indicted in May on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and obstruction of official business in the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, 19.
If convicted of both charges, he could face up to nine months in jail.
Roach agreed to have the trial heard without a jury. After hearing testimony, Municipal Court Judge Ralph E. Winkler may take the case under review and issue his verdict later.
The death touched off the city's worst racial violence since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968, and prompted a citywide dusk-to-dawn curfew to restore order. Dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested.
Roach was the only one of at least five officers pursuing Thomas who took his revolver out of his holster, prosecutor Michael Prisley told the judge.
Before firing, Roach should have used other methods to stop Thomas, who was wanted on traffic violations and charges of fleeing police, Prisley said. He also should not have put his finger on the trigger before he intended to use the gun, Prisley said.
The obstruction charge stems from the differing accounts of what happened that Roach gave to detectives investigating the shooting, Prisley said.
Phoenix killings racially charged
PHOENIX - A man accused of fatally shooting an Indian immigrant and firing at other minorities during a rampage in suburban Phoenix targeted the victims because of their race, the county attorney said yesterday.
Saturday's killing of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, outside the gas station he operated in Mesa touched off protests in India and a call to President Bush by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Frank Silva Roque, 42, was charged with first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and three counts of drive-by shooting.
"Mr. Sodhi was killed for no other apparent reason than that he was dark-skinned and wore a turban," Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley. "He was killed because of hate."
The shootings occurred Saturday afternoon in the suburb of Mesa. A man in a truck shot and killed Sodhi, who was outside, drove 10 miles to a second station and unloaded several shots through a window at a Lebanese-American clerk and then fired shots into the home of a family of Afghani descent, police said.
The East Valley Tribune reported that Roque shouted, "I stand for America all the way," as he was handcuffed Saturday night.
Sodhi, 49, was a Sikh. His relatives pointed to the fact that the gas station wasn't robbed as evidence that Sodhi was targeted because of how he looked. Male Sikhs often have long facial hair and wear turbans.
Outside Sodhi's gas station, a shrine of candles and messages continued to grow Monday. Yellow poster board taped to a utility pole carried this message: "I did not know this man, but he is me - he is all of us. Please live on in love and peace." Another sign: "Our enemies are ignorance and hate."
In India, scores of Sikhs gathered yesterday about a mile from the U.S. Embassy in New Dehli and held placards and banners with slogans such as: "Mr. Bush, tell Americans Sikhs are not Taliban."
Around the country, several apparent backlash attacks and threats have been reported against people of Middle Eastern and southern Asian descent