3 June: A university student charged for holding a flare during last month’s heated budget protest rally in Sydney has been let off the hook, with a court instead labelling him a good Samaritan.
University of Technology, Sydney, pharmacy student Mohammad Baqir Jaafar was arrested on May 21 as he marched in the city with other students, student unionists and academics.
The 1000-strong crowd were protesting against the federal government’s proposed cuts to university funding announced in the May 13 budget, when some protesters clashed with police.
Officers pounced on Jaafar and bundled him to the ground after they spotted him holding the flare aloft.
But while the 23-year-old pleaded guilty to possession of a dangerous article in a public place at the Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday, he denied he lit the flare.
His lawyer Mahmoud Mandoh argued his client, who also holds a Bachelor of Medical Science degree, found the flare on the road and picked it up only to move it to the side of the street so it didn’t hurt other marchers.
“As a health student, he is aware that the smoke from a flare is harmful to the respiratory systems of other human beings” Mr Mandoh said.
In quashing the charge, Magistrate Gregory Grogin cited Jaafar’s spotless record and reminded the student the dismissal was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“When I saw this on the TV, I thought, ‘How dangerous, how unacceptable’,” Magistrate Grogin said.
“But it seems like on that day he might have been a good Samaritan, and I’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Outside court, Jaafar said he was relieved the ordeal was behind him.
“I was the wrong person to get arrested,” he told reporters.
“It was supposed to be the person in front of me.”