An Australian man has been sentenced to prison for three years for punching and stomping on a pregnant Muslim woman at a cafe in Sydney last year.
The footage of the incident, which was caught on CCTV surveillance cameras, was shown in court on Thursday (October 1).
Rana Elasmar, a 32-year-old lady with four children, had been 38 weeks pregnant when the incident took place in November 2019 at Bay Vista cafe in Sydney.
A man named Stipe “Steven” Lozina had walked up to her and asked her for money. When she refused, he had resorted to punching her several times and then stomping on her head.
According to Elasmar, Lozina had also hurled “racist” remarks at her. Prosecutors said he had yelled “you Muslims wrecked my mum” before leaning over and punching Elasmar to the ground.
Several of her friends and others at the cafe had immediately stepped in and restrained him. A report by CNN said Elasmar had suffered minor injuries, while her then-unborn child escaped unharmed.
“If nobody intervened, I could have been killed. I made a conscious decision to turn my abdomen away from his punches. I wanted to protect my baby,” BBC quoted Elasmar as saying.
The judge in court, Christopher Craigie, noted that Lozina had hit Elasmar at least 14 times in a “very dynamic and swift outburst of violence” while she “cowered in terror”, before the others stepped in to rescue her.
At Thursday’s hearing, Lozina refused legal help and represented himself in court. He appeared in court via video link but was later removed after he repeated a racist statement over and over. At a previous hearing, he had interrupted a prosecutor named Sara Gun to ask her about her racial background.
Lozina pleaded guilty to assault, but maintained that he had not attacked Elasmar because of her faith and that he had only done so because she had refused to give him money. “I don’t hate them, but I don’t get along with them. I’ve got no business with them,” he said in court, addressing allegations of Islamophobia.
Judge Craigie noted that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had a “longstanding struggle with mental illness”, according to BBC.
Lozina was ultimately sentenced to a maximum of three years in jail, with a non-parole period of two years.
According to CNN, Elasmar was still experiencing the physical and psychological effects of the attack.