Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - A judge in Australia's New South Wales has handed down one of the longest sentences in the state's history to a 20-year-old who led a group of young men of Arab origin on a spree of gang rapes.
The Sydney man, who has not been named, was sentenced to 55 years' imprisonment, with district court judge Michael Finnane ruling out parole for the first 40 years.
Observers reported that the man smirked frequently through his trial for raping four young women in the city in 2000. When Finnane read out his sentence, he shouted an obscenity at the bench while family members and friends shrieked and fainted.
The judge called him a menace and a coward who had led a gang of brutal rapists and had shown no remorse, instead behaved "as if the [legal] proceedings were a joke."
Some of the gang members have never been caught, although 14 have been convicted thus far. Over a six-week period they had raped at least seven white teenage girls.
A series of trials sparked a debate about ethnicity and racial hatred. Some victims said their attackers, who were all of Lebanese origin, made it clear they were being assaulted for being "Australian" - that is, white.
Some Muslim community campaigners complained about what they said was a racial element to the community, media and official response to the case.
State Premier Bob Carr said the sentence was justified and would be welcomed by the community, although some legal bodies questioned the length of the term.
The state's attorney general shrugged off the criticism, saying if the sentence set a new benchmark for the crime of gang rape, "then that's the way it's got to be."
See Earlier Story:
Gang Rape Convictions Trigger Ethnicity Debate (July 16, 2002)
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