Australian jailed for suspected Islamophobic attack on pregnant woman

Rana Elasmar and her husband outside Parramatta court. She says her son, Zayn, is ‘happy and healthy’ despite the incident. (AAP Photo)
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Updated 01 October 2020

Australian jailed for suspected Islamophobic attack on pregnant woman

  • Stipe Lozina sentenced to 3 years for ‘vicious’ assault on victim wearing hijab in Sydney
  • ‘If nobody intervened, I could have been killed’

LONDON: An Australian man has been sentenced to three years in jail for an “inherently vicious” attack on a pregnant woman that is thought to have been motivated by Islamophobia. 

Stipe Lozina, 44, assaulted Rana Elasmar, 32, in a cafe in Sydney in November 2019 after asking her for money. He knocked her onto the floor, striking her at least 14 times and stamping on her head.

Before attacking Elasmar, who was 38 weeks pregnant at the time and was wearing a hijab, Lozina had shouted that “Muslims” had attacked his mother. 

“I made a conscious decision to turn my abdomen away from his punches,” Elasmar said. “I wanted to protect my baby.”

Lozina was restrained by members of the public before his arrest. “If nobody intervened, I could have been killed,” Elasmar said.

Lozina, who the court noted had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, chose to represent himself at the trial, interrupting court proceedings — held via video link — several times and “frequently” lapsing into “incoherent rants,” local media reported.

Judge Christopher Craigie said Lozina was “obviously unwell” and held “obsessive” opinions about Muslims.

“The assault was one with a grave potential to cause very serious harm to both the victim and her unborn child,” Craigie said during sentencing on Thursday.

Elasmar’s baby was born safely later in 2019, but she noted that though she had been spared major physical trauma, she had suffered psychologically in the aftermath of the attack.

“Islamophobia needs to end,” she said, adding that she has avoided going out in public since her ordeal. “Violence against women needs to stop.”


US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.