A former champion boxer who bashed a police officer during Sydney’s violent Hyde Park riot will be behind bars until at least 2016.
Ahmed Elomar, who began boxing at age nine before turning pro at 15, was one of hundreds of protesters who marched through Sydney’s streets in 2012 before clashing with police at Hyde Park.
He was sentenced on Thursday to four years and eight months in jail but with time served, he will be eligible for parole on March 8, 2016.
The September 2012 demonstration was sparked by the YouTube film Innocence of Muslims, which mocks the Islamic faith.
Sydney District Court Judge Donna Woodburne said some protesters “were waving flags that said, in large print, ‘Behead all those that insult the prophet’.”
Elomar pleaded guilty to recklessly wounding a police officer, identified only as a senior constable.
The 31-year-old struck the officer with a flag pole so hard that the pole bent, the constable was hospitalised and he will bear a facial scar for the rest of his life.
The Crown had argued Elomar might not even have seen the offensive film before joining the hordes, but was rather lured in by the chance to commit “senseless acts of violence”.
Judge Woodburne said she accepted Elomar had a mild intellectual impairment and that he had difficulty physically and emotionally restraining himself.
“I do not find, however, that it deprived him of the ability to appreciate that it was wrong to bash a police officer on the head, as he did,” she said.
Wearing prison greens and with a long, curly head of hair, Elomar stroked his beard but otherwise made no reaction as the sentence was handed down.
World champion boxers Jeff Fenech and Anthony Mundine lent Elomar their support during the case, with Mr Fenech urging he be given a “second chance” and Mr Mundine arguing Elomar was “somewhat naive” but would “overcome this episode in his life”.
Elomar won the IBF Pan Pacific featherweight title in 2006.
Judge Woodburne said by 2012, Elomar had been out of work for some time following a string of serious accidents over several years.
More than a decade ago, he received serious head and neck injuries after diving from a bridge, and in 2004 he ruptured his spleen when he fell 11 metres at a building site.
His mother claimed he was also seriously affected by a brush with police in his parents’ home country of Lebanon in 2007, where he was “tortured for several days and kept without food before being released without charge”.
Elomar’s legal team had argued that a combination of post-traumatic stress arising from the Lebanon arrest, his intellectual disability and a history of head trauma all led to him falling under the influence of “deeply religious and more intelligent men” in the months leading to the riots.
Defence barrister Greg James QC had asked that his client be allowed to serve an intensive correction order, rather than go into full-time custody.
But Judge Woodburne said the community viewed attacks against on-duty police officers harshly and a jail term was the only appropriate sentence.