Friday, August 25, 2006

Lodhi is our enemy: Long jail sentence for would-be Muslim terrorist sends a signal to all those who wish Australia harm

The 20-year jail sentence imposed on Faheem Khalid Lodhi sends important signals to all sorts of Australians. For a start, it is a welcome wake-up call for those who refuse to accept we are all on the front line in the war on terror. Lodhi planned an attack on the electricity grid, to wreak havoc on a country that he professed to call home.

His conviction also sends a clear message that individuals in our midst with murder on their minds cannot use the legal system as a shelter from the consequences of planning or committing evil acts. Certainly, self-confessed al-Qa'ida footsoldier "Jihad" Jack Thomas was acquitted of terror offences last week because of police errors in the way he was interviewed. But Lodhi is now convicted, and sentenced to two decades in prison.

The job of the police and the courts is to justly protect us from the mad and the bad. And this sentence shows how it can be done according to law. Lodhi's imprisonment may not deter the most adamant of the enemies of all Australians from taking his place. But some may consider his fate and think again before they plot against us. Lodhi will rot in prison for 20 years, knowing that Australians of all and no faiths despise him for what he planned. Their contempt is a message he deserves to hear loudly and often and for many, many years.

There is also a message for other Australians in Lodhi's conviction and sentence. Despite years of mass murders by Islamic terrorists all over the world, there are still some who say the war on terror is a political contrivance designed to frighten us all. They should consider the judgment of Justice Anthony Whealy in sentencing Lodhi when he warned that even though the plan was amateurish and ill-conceived, it could have caused death and damage.

It is an essential argument. From Bali to London, mass murderers have demonstrated it does not take any special ability to kill innocent people and to shatter the social cohesion and trust that democracies depend on. "Australia has, to this time, not been a country where fundamentalist and extreme views have exposed our citizens to death and destruction within the sanctuary of our shores. One has only to think of the consequences on the national psyche of a tragedy such as the Port Arthur massacre to realise how a major terrorist bombing would impact on the security, the stability and wellbeing of the citizens of this country," Justice Whealy said.

Nor was Lodhi acting to address any grievance that could ever be addressed in a democracy. As Justice Whealy put it: "The extremist views, which he must in truth be taken to have espoused, are not representative of the true nature of his Islamic religion. Rather, they are a distortion of it." In his duplicity and his intent, Faheem Lodhi is our enemy. His conviction will not end the danger of attack, but in removing the risk from a bad man, and reminding us all of the dangers we face, it is a victory in the war on terror we needed.


Abortionist guilty

A Sydney doctor faces a lengthy jail term after being convicted for an illegal abortion in the first case of its kind in NSW in 25 years. Suman Sood was tried in the NSW Supreme Court on two counts of unlawfully giving abortion drugs to a young woman in May 2002 and for the manslaughter of the woman's premature baby boy. Sood, 56, who ran the Fairfield Women's Health Clinic in Sydney's southwest, pleaded not guilty to three charges at the start of her five-week trial.

After three days' deliberation, the jury of eight women and three men today acquitted Sood of manslaughter. She was convicted of the two illegal abortion charges, each of which carries a maximum 10-year jail term.

Sood was consulted on May 20, 2002, by a 20-year-old woman who had just discovered she was five months pregnant. Several clinics refused to terminate her pregnancy after 20 weeks but the woman was told the procedure could be done at Sood's clinic for $1500. The jury heard Sood inserted a prostaglandin tablet and gave her two more pills to swallow, in preparation for a termination procedure the next day.

But the woman delivered a baby boy on the toilet at home overnight. The baby died five hours later. Born at 23 weeks gestation, the baby's lungs were underdeveloped and he was pronounced dead about five hours later, the jury was told.

Abortion is legal in NSW if a doctor forms the genuine belief, based on reasonable grounds, that continuing the pregnancy would endanger the mother's life, or physical or mental health.

Prosecutors said Sood acted illegally because she did not question the patient about her medical, social or economic circumstances or why she wanted the abortion. They claimed she therefore could not have judged whether the abortion was necessary to preserve the patient's wellbeing.

The jury rejected Sood's defence that she never intended to terminate the woman's pregnancy and only gave her painkillers, not prostaglandins. Defence barrister Phillip Boulten, SC, also argued there was insufficient evidence that the baby was born alive, meaning a manslaughter charge was not applicable.

The ambulance officer who retrieved the newborn from the toilet said he was blue, was not breathing and had no heartbeat. The mother and baby were taken to Westmead Hospital, where he was observed with a pink colour and a "fluttering" heartbeat, gasping for breath every two to three minutes. But the jury heard conflicting medical evidence about whether these were conclusive signs of independent life, and Mr Boulten said they could not convict Sood of manslaughter if they were satisfied the baby had not been alive.

Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, alleged Sood was motivated by greed to perform the abortion, and "was more intent on maximising her income than she was on the welfare of her patient". The last person tried in NSW for an illegal abortion was also a doctor, George Smart, who was convicted in 1981 of unlawfully procuring a teenage girl's miscarriage. Sood was granted bail ahead of sentencing next month.


Public hospital negligence kills in New South Wales

The family of a Sydney teenager have demanded to know why health officials said she did not need medication that might have prevented her death from meningococcal disease. Jehan Nassif, 18, from Yagoona in Sydney's south-west died from the disease in Bankstown Hospital last Friday.

Her boyfriend George Khauzame had recently returned from a holiday to Greece with his cousin Elias. Elias was diagnosed with meningococcal upon returning to Australia, while Mr Khauzame was given antibiotics as a precaution. Worried his girlfriend might also contract the disease, Mr Khauzame today said he asked a public health official if Jehan was at risk. He said he was told she would be fine. "I asked the lady at public health should Jehan be treated because I had made contact with her for three hours on Monday nights," he told reporters. "She said Jehan was safe and didn't need to be treated. "I asked again and she said she she would be fine."

Mr Khauzame said his concerns for Jehan's health were further inflamed when the pair went to visit Elias in hospital. He said Jehan had asked if she needed a face mask but was told by the nurses that she didn't need to wear one, even though the nurses were.

Jehan's father, Tony Nassif, is now demanding to know what happened to his daughter. "I want to know why she died," he told reporters. "She was beautiful, she wanted to be a teacher." Mr Nassif said his daughter wanted to go to hospital last Friday morning but was told by ambulance officials it would be a two to three hour wait at Auburn Hospital. After she lost her vision, her ability to walk and a purple rash broke out on her body, the family called the ambulance again and she was rushed to Bankstown Hospital, where she died a short time later.

NSW Ambulance operations director Michael Willis today said ambulance officers who were called to Jehan's home at about 3am on Friday had said she refused to be transported to hospital. "The two officers that attended that case have recorded that they found a female patient suffering with vomiting and diarrhoea and after an examination with the family, in fact that patient refused transport," he told reporters. The ambulance officers had not been aware Jehan had been in contact with a person with meningococcal and had not diagnosed her with the condition, Mr Willis said. "They were unable to detect any signs of meningococcal at that stage," he said.


A truly Irish Australian

Her surname must have helped. It's about as Irish as you can get. Having plenty of Irish blood myself, I am delighted by this story. It does a sentimental Celtic heart good

A trainee teacher from Brisbane has become Ireland's sweetheart after winning the Rose of Tralee contest. Millions of Irish TV viewers tuned in to see Kathryn Feeney, 23, become this year's Rose in a glittering ceremony in County Kerry.

The competition, which celebrates the Rose of Tralee folk song, aims to find the most charming and beautiful women in Ireland and Irish communities around the globe. Kathryn, whose grandfather was Irish, won the Queensland heat earlier this year. Her whole family, including some from the US, joined her in Dublin and yesterday they toasted her triumph with a few pints of Guinness.

Noela McCormick, of the Queensland Irish Association, was with them in the audience as Kathryn was declared the 2006 Rose. "She couldn't believe she had won, but I'm not surprised. The Irish fell in love with her right from the start," she said. "All of the girls in the contest have been treated like movie stars. They've been on TV all week and people have been scrambling for their autographs.


Heroic country people

They breed 'em tough out Roma way. A seven-month survey by ambulance officers in the southwest Queensland town found 97 patients made it to hospital under their own steam despite serious injury or illness. Ambulance officer in charge at Roma, Karl Radford, said patients drove themselves or loved ones up to 80km over "goat track" roads rather than call Triple-0.

Patients made the journey suffering heart attacks, broken bones, migraines and asthma, Mr Radford said. "It's not just one or two people here and there," he said. But he warned that resourceful country Queenslanders risked their lives by taking medical transport into their own hands. "Something like asthma, that just goes bad in the blink of an eye - you could be literally dead in three minutes," he said. "I'm astounded that we haven't had an accident because somebody was rushing themselves to hospital. "Somebody who's having, for example, a heart attack, they run such a terrible risk."

Mr Radford, who has been in charge at Roma's ambulance station for four years, urged locals to take advantage of the state's free ambulance cover. "They need to realise the services that are available to them. Here in Roma, we've got a four-wheel-drive ambulance," said the father of two. "Even if it was a really remote and isolated property and there was an airport or landing strip, there's the option of getting aircraft in there. "All my family have been told call Triple-0 - if I didn't think it would work, I wouldn't tell my own people."

Rural Doctors Association Queensland president Christian Rowan said selfless rural Queenslanders often made the hazardous drive to hospital rather than tie up an ambulance needed elsewhere. "I can think of a fellow who was lighting up a grass fire and his trousers caught fire," Dr Rowan said. "He basically burned one leg with third-degree, full-thickness burns. "He drove himself and that would've taken at least half an hour. "He was in a lot of pain but he was one of those tough old bushies who thought to himself, 'Oh, I won't need an ambulance, there may be someone else in greater need than me'."

Dr Rowan also advised Queenslanders living outside urban areas to call for help. "Sometimes a particular health situation really requires assistance. They should ask for it and not feel guilty about it." Roma Mayor Bruce Garvie backed the calls. "People are tough in the bush because they have to be to survive through the elements," he said. "It's bred in them. But they probably do need to reach out more than they do. "Often they take things on themselves and don't realise how serious it is


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