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Accused rioters to miss Palm Island funeral

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 6 December 2004

Queensland's chief magistrate, Marshall Irwin, has granted bail to all 17 men charged over rioting and other offences last month on Palm Island.

However, the bail conditions will mean none of the men can return to the community for the funeral of Cameron Doomadgee, whose death in custody sparked the violence.

The 17 men were to be dealt with individually but once Mr Irwin granted bail to four of them, the police prosecution said that while bail would be opposed the matters would not be argued individually.

The men - including alleged riot ringleader Les Wotton - have been released from the watch house on their own undertaking but they must comply with strict conditions.

They must report to police daily, they are not to return to Palm Island or have any contact with prosecution witnesses in relation to the death of Mr Doomadgee, the riot of November 26 or any other matters arising from it.

The Palm Island Community Justice Group and the Townsville Thuringowa Community Justice Group have given an undertaking to have regular contact with the men and ensure they comply with the conditions.

The vice-president of the Queensland Police Union, Denis Fitzpartick, says he is shocked at the bail decisions.

"The service has the opportunity to appeal the decision before a higher jurisdiction," he said.

"The members have contacted us who are involved in the arrest process and the prosecution process and they are absolutely appalled by this decision which has occurred today."

However, family members and Palm Island leaders have applauded the decision to grant the men bail.

Facing charges including rioting causing demolition, arson and assault, the men had been in custody since last Saturday.

Police allege they were key players in the riot which led to the police station, the courthouse and the police barracks on Palm Island being fire bombed.

The 17 are due to face the Townsville Magistrates Court again next March.

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