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‘Political witch-hunt’: Australian nationalist slams prosecutor’s push to jail him again over hiker clash

Thomas Sewell Jacob Hersant appeal

An Australian nationalist has accused prosecutors attempting to jail him and a companion again over a clash with hikers that took place almost three years ago of being politically motivated.

Thomas Sewell, 31, and Jacob Hersant, 25, the leaders of right-wing activist groups the European Australian Movement and the Nationalist Socialist Network, appeared before a Melbourne court on Friday where Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions is appealing their sentences.

The pair last year pleaded guilty to violent disorder after being charged over a confrontation with a group of other men in the Cathedral Ranges State Park in Victoria in May 2021.

In September County Court Judge Kellie Blair sentenced Mr Sewell, who had already spent 210 days in solitary confinement in jail after his arrest, to one month and 7 days imprisonment, and Mr Hersant to 3 days imprisonment already served in pre-sentence detention, and 200 hours community service.

Chief Crown prosecutor Brendan Kissane KC claimed to three Court of Appeal judges that the sentences were “inadequate” and challenged Judge Blair’s findings that their offending was at the lower end of the scale, and that they had good prospects for rehabilitation. He also claimed the pair had “entrenched” views.

But Mr Sewell’s defence barrister Dermot Dann KC told the court the appeal was “entirely questionable” and “should never have been brought at all,” ABC News reported.

Judge Blair in sentencing said Mr Sewell’s time in remand in Port Phillip Prison was spent in “extremely onerous conditions”, and Mr Dann told the court it involved “harsh” solitary confinement, no visitors, and only one hour a day outside his cell.

Christopher Carr SC for Mr Hersant said his client’s age and previous clean criminal record meant his sentence was “entirely appropriate” and a significant punishment for a young offender.

Court of Appeal justices Karin Emerton, Maree Kennedy and Christopher Boyce reserved their decision and will hand down their appeal at a later date.

Outside court Mr Sewell told a 9 News reporter the appeal was a “political witch-hunt” and later said of the report in a post on X: “If only Channel 9 news gave half the attention they give me, to all the Indian and African rapists that were let off this week.”

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