Tue, Apr 07, 2009 - Page 5 News List

NSW police tighten security for premier over biker law

AP AND AFP , SYDNEY

Police have tightened security around the leader of Australia’s most populous state amid fears biker gangs will target him over laws designed to stamp them out, it was reported yesterday.

New South Wales (NSW) Premier Nathan Rees last week pushed through anti-terror style legislation allowing police to have biker gangs declared illegal in response to escalating violence among rival outlaw motorcycle clubs.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, citing unnamed police sources, said officers had placed his home under 24-hour guard because of worries the gangs would seek revenge.

Police and the NSW government have refused to discuss security arrangements surrounding the premier.

The report came as police charged a sixth member of the Comancheros gang over a brawl at Sydney Airport last month, when the brother of a Hells Angel was bludgeoned to death in a check-in area.

Under the new laws, police can apply for a motorcycle gang to be declared a criminal organization by a judge.

Once declared, members found to be associating with one another could be jailed for two years, rising to five years for repeat offenses.

Civil libertarians and legal groups said the laws undermined the right to freedom of association and increased the risk of police corruption.

But the NSW government said they were needed to stamp out biker violence and has expressed confidence they could withstand a constitutional challenge.

South Australia state has similar laws and Queensland is in the process of drafting them.

Experts said the biker violence stemmed from turf wars over drug distribution, particularly crystal methamphetamine or “ice.”

Australia’s worst outbreak of biker warfare was in 1984, when six gang members and a teenage girl died in a shootout in a Sydney pub’s car park.

Meanwhile, the leader of the biker gang involved in the deadly Sydney Airport brawl last month was arrested yesterday and charged in connection to the fight, police and his lawyer said.

Mahmoud “Mick” Hawi, leader of the Commancheros, is the sixth member of the gang arrested over the clash that left a Hell’s Angels biker bleeding to death in front of terrified travelers at a domestic terminal at Sydney Airport.

The slaying thrust long-simmering violence between biker gangs in Australia into the public spotlight, raised fears of widespread reprisal attacks and prompted a crackdown by authorities.

Hawi, 28, was due to appear in court later yesterday. His lawyer, John Korn, told reporters Hawi would ask to be released on bail.

In the March 22 brawl, Anthony Zervas, the brother of a Hell’s Angels leader in Sydney, was bludgeoned to death with metal poles after members of both gangs disembarked from the same flight from the southern city of Melbourne.

A week later, an unknown gunman opened fire on the brother, Peter Zervas, hitting him several times and badly wounding him as he sat in a car outside his apartment building.

No one has been charged in Anthony Zervas’ killing. The charges against the Commanchero members are for “affray” — fighting in public and causing bystanders to fear for their safety.

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