The following article from DailyMail
Anti-lockdown ‘rebels’ arrested, locked-up and fined during one of Victoria’s darkest periods in history are quietly being let off the hook in the run up to the next state election.
Over the past month, Victorian prosecutors have dropped charges against three anti-lockdown ringleaders.
On Thursday, Jemal Abazi walked free from court almost two years after he was charged for encouraging Dandenong locals to walk together for their allotted one-hour period of exercise during Victoria’s second hard lockdown in August 2020.
Journalist Monica Smit had her charges withdrawn earlier this month.
The vocal anti-vaxxer had spent 22 days in jail after refusing to comply with a series of bail conditions which were later scrapped by the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Retired pensioner Solihin Millin also had his charges dropped this month after being charged for inciting the ‘Freedom Rally’ at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance in September 2020.
The 78-year old had been charged with inciting others to protest.
The reasons given for dropping the elderly Victorian’s charges revolved around his age, lack of prior convictions, his status as a pensioner and the likely sentence upon a finding of guilt meant ‘it was no longer in the public interest to continue prosecution’.
The supposed lack of public interest in prosecuting the protesters had been used to justify the dumping of all three of their cases.
On Friday, Mr Abazi stood before the County Court of Victoria to ask Mr Andrews why his charges had been dropped.
The restaurateur had been charged with incitement to breach Covid stay-at-home directives and an associated breach of bail.
‘That is the question we are all asking, but the answer still remains to be answered so understandably I’m pretty confused,’ Mr Abazi said in a video posted to social media.
‘They put me through a lot and they need to answer these simple questions.’
Mr Abazi said he had been badly mistreated by Victoria Police and the justice system.
‘I have been arrested on many, many occasions and now they’ve just decided to drop everything regardless that the amount of money it has cost this government and the people,’ he said.
Tens of thousands of ordinary Victorians were fined by a militant Victoria Police during the state’s six hard lockdowns.
In May, a state budget estimates inquiry heard more than 50,000 fines were handed to Victorians for breaching Covid-19 restrictions, but half had not been paid.
Of those, almost 40,000 were issued for ‘general breaches’ and another 1,723 fines for ‘illegal gatherings’.
Legal groups have been calling for fines to be dumped since 2020, arguing they disproportionately affected marginalised communities and in some cases had been issued to people who were acting within the law.
Mr Abazi’s lawyer, James Catlin, said the decision to drop charges was an ‘attempt to mute community anger’, the Herald Sun reported.
‘It looks like a belated attempt to mute community anger about police tactics during the pandemic in the lead up to the election,’ Mr Catlin said.
‘A jury trial would have reminded people’.
Mr Abazi is seeking to recover the costs of fighting the charges for two years.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Ms Smit on July 18 despite her dramatic 2021 arrest, which she live streamed to social media.
She had been scheduled to stand trial at the County Court of Victoria until prosecutors filed a last minute notice of discontinuance after deciding it was no longer in the ‘public interest’ to continue.
The legal proceedings had cost Ms Smit ‘hundreds of thousands’ of dollars from donors – money she hopes to get back when her application for costs returns to court next week.
Mr Millin had long argued his charges were invalid because the stay-at-home-orders in place at the time of his arrest was based on illegitimate health advice.
Like his fellow protesters, police had raided his house and confiscated computers and mobile phones.
‘I believe the VicGov realise they have no evidence to support the Victorian emergency … and are hiding this fact which in essence is conspiracy to conceal evidence and an attempt to pervert the course of justice,’ he said in a statement posted to his website last week.
‘The real reason for this discontinuance is that the VicGov doesn’t have a case and the Victorian emergency is unlawful.’
Anti-lockdown walkers had been doused with pepper spray and struggled with cops as community frustration with Melbourne’s draconian Stage 4 restrictions reached boiling point in August 2020.
Police issued $15,000 in fines and arrested four men during one wild afternoon clash in Dandenong, in Melbourne’s southeast.
In video shared on social media, police could be seen aiming pepper spray at walkers as officers tackled a man to the ground.
At the time, Melbourne residents could only leave their homes for four reasons: to buy essential items like groceries, for care or to give care, exercise and work.
There was also a nightly curfew from 8pm until 5am.
Just days later, hundreds of Melburnians took to the streets to protest Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ continued lockdown.
They had earlier been described by Victoria Police assistant commissioner Luke Cornelius as ‘crazies’.
A day before that march, he turned on another brave display from the comfort of his pulpit at police headquarters.
‘I feel a bit like a dog returning to eat his own vomit,’ he crowed. ‘I’m sick of it.’
Just weeks earlier, the assistant commissioner labelled anti-lockdown protesters the ‘tinfoil-hat wearing brigade’.
‘They’re taking every opportunity to leverage the current situation to serve their ridiculous notions about so called sovereign citizens, about constitutional issues and about how 5G is going to kill your grandkids,’ he said of a previous protest.
‘I mean it’s just crazy, it’s batsh*t crazy nonsense.’
Little has been seen publicly of the tough-talking cop since his political masters lifted the lockdown restrictions.
Sources have told Daily Mail Australia both Victoria Police and the Andrews Government are determined to limit the legal fallout of the lockdowns leading up to an election.
Just weeks ago Victoria Police paid a settlement worth tens of thousands of dollars to a news photographer who was pepper-sprayed twice in the face by officers while covering an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne last year.
A man head-slammed into the concrete by a sergeant at Flinders Street Station last September is also expected to settle out of court for more than a $1million.
In March, a police informer told the Herald Sun police lawyers opened the bidding with a $300,000 offer to compensate the injured man — compared with the usual $50,000 usually touted at the start of a negotiated damages settlement.
The number of payouts provided by Victoria Police to victims of its heavy handed policing during the pandemic will likely remain a mystery.
In September last year, officers stormed Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance armed to the teeth with gas grenades, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
It had not been the first time the use of non-lethal projectiles had been used against the people, often causing not only damage to bodies, but to vehicles and other property in the process.
Melbourne Activist Legal Support expressed its concerns over the use of such force before the Shrine protest even happened.
‘Victorian police officers do not have unrestrained power to use weapons or any other force on members of the public. Any use of force must be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate to the threat faced and in accordance with legal requirements found in legislation,’ it stated at the time.
‘Using, drawing or threatening use of any weapon is considered a “use of force” for which a police officer is both legally and organisationally accountable … The emergency pandemic powers do not provide the police any greater powers to disperse crowds with non-lethal options.’
A recent Roy Morgan Snap SMS Poll suggested Labor will win another term with 59.5 per cent of votes on a two-party preferred basis.