Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Hanson spends first day in prison

FALLEN STAR Aborigine politicians recommended special protection for the anti-immigration politician, who was sentenced to three years for electoral fraud

AP , SYNDEY

Right-wing firebrand Pauline Hanson began her first full day in jail yesterday as her lawyer vowed to appeal her three-year sentence for electoral fraud and supporters cast her as a political prisoner akin to South Africa's Nelson Mandela.

There were also concerns about the safety of Hanson, a harsh critic of Asian immigration and Aboriginal welfare, who has been locked up in a high security wing of Wacol women's prison near the east coast city of Brisbane.

Like most Australian prisons, the facility has a large proportion of inmates of Aboriginal origin and there were calls for her to be given special protection.

Defense lawyer Chris Nyst said he would appeal both her conviction and sentence that were handed down Wednesday by a court in Queensland state.

The result of her fraud trial was greeted with a mixture of shock and satisfaction by her supporters and political foes.

Her official Web site described the verdict as: "A landmark decision not seen since Nelson Mandela was thrown in jail for representing the views of the oppressed voice of South Africa. Pauline now sits in jail for following the same ideals."

Hanson and another official in her One Nation Party, David Ettridge, were convicted of illegally registering the party in Queensland in 1997 and then fraudulently claiming A$500,000 (US$330,000) in electoral funding to campaign for a state poll in 1998.

Ettridge also reportedly was planning to appeal.

Hanson stunned the nation in 1996 when she was elected as an independent federal lawmaker just weeks after being dumped by the Liberal Party of Prime Minister John Howard because of her anti-immigration stance.

In her first speech to Parliament, she shocked Australia's Asian neighbors by warning that the country was in danger of being "swamped" by Asian immigrants.

She also regularly railed against welfare payments to Aborigines and one senior indigenous lawmaker warned yesterday that she should be specially protected because of the high number of Aborigines in the prison where she will serve her time.

Senator Aden Ridgeway said Hanson should be "in protective custody, particularly given that a lot of indigenous people are in Wacol prison."

Ridgeway said he agreed with the sentence.

"I don't want to put any misery upon any person but at the end of the day people have got to observe the law," Ridgeway told reporters.

However, many other former political friends and foes said the sentence did not fit the crime.

Bob Carr, the Labor leader of Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, has often spoken out against Hanson, but yesterday said she should not have been jailed.

"Is prison the right way to treat an offense of this type? I don't think so," he said, after describing her as a political opportunist who only aired grievances but did not offer any solutions.

The man who wrote Hanson's infamous first speech to Parliament before she fired him, John Pasquarelli, said he felt sorry for her.

He said Hanson had "flown across the Australian political sky and landed with a fiery bang in a massive crater."

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