Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Xenophobe Hanson sentenced

EXILED AUSTRALIAN Anti-immigration leader Pauline Hanson was jailed for three years for reimbursement fraud after leaving the One Nation party she co-founded

AFP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

Australia's former anti-immigration political leader Pauline Hanson and her one-time colleague David Ettridge were jailed for three years each for electoral fraud in a Brisbane court yesterday.

The 49-year-old right-wing firebrand and Ettridge, 58, had pleaded not guilty to fraudulently registering the One Nation party which they founded in Queensland on Dec. 4, 1997.

Hanson also denied dishonestly obtaining almost A$500,000 dollars (US$33,000) in electoral reimbursements after the 1998 Queensland state election.

But the 12-member District Court jury found the pair guilty on all charges after more than nine hours of deliberation.

Judge Patsy Wolfe made no recommendation for parole.

Hanson, who strenuously denied guilt, told the hearing during sentencing submissions: "Yes, I'm still very innocent of the charges and I believe the prosecution has not proven the case against me or David Ettridge."

As the verdicts were announced a clearly stunned Hanson said angrily: "Rubbish, I'm not guilty ... it's a joke."

Ettridge, One Nation's former financial director, said at the hearing: "I still maintain my innocence."

The 23-day trial heard from 30 witnesses about allegations that the pair lied to get the party registered by pretending a list of more than 500 members used in the application to electoral authorities belonged to the party.

The prosecution argued the list was of people belonging to Hanson's support movement and not the party.

Prosecutor Brendan Campbell told the court the pair had undermined the political process and he sought five years for Hanson and three for Ettridge.

Hanson, who has since repaid the money, also faces a ban on running for office.

The former fish-and-chip shop owner rose to national prominence in 1996 after the centre-right Liberal Party, headed by Prime Minister John Howard, dropped her as a candidate for a seat in federal parliament.

But she stood as an independent, won a seat and shot to international notoriety over her views on Asian immigration and Aborigines.

Hanson used her new forum in Canberra to rail against welfare payments to Aborigines and Australia being "swamped" by Asians, raising fear in the Asian community and concern even among neighboring Asian countries.

The peak of her popularity came in the 1998 Queensland state election when One Nation won 11 seats and captured almost 25 percent of the vote. But soon after, internal feuding split the party, consigning it to the electoral fringes.

She quit One Nation after being charged last year.

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