July 16, 2024

A man so offended he drove to participate in violent riots after a bishop’s stabbing has been convicted but released from jail after punching a police officer during the volatile event.

Talal Khalil El Khoury was arrested on April 24, nine days after an angry mob surrounded Christ the Good Shepherd Church in the western Sydney suburb of Wakeley.

The 52-year-old was not a member of the church but drove there after seeing reports either through the news or social media.

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After joining the incensed throng, the Bass Hill man yelled at police, stepped forward and punched an officer’s protective riot gear.

While that officer was distracted by another rioter, El Khoury then punched him a second time in the torso before being pepper sprayed.

No injuries were caused by his conduct which was captured on police body-worn cameras.

He pleaded guilty to one count of riot and one count of assaulting a police officer in May and appeared at Fairfield Local Court today.

Appearing by video-link from Long Bay prison, El Khoury watched as he was convicted by Magistrate Stuart Devine and sentenced to serve time in the community.

The nature of El Khoury’s violence was opportunistic and inexcusable but towards the lower end of seriousness, the magistrate said.

“It is … behaviour that is morally repugnant and entirely inconsistent with civilised society.”

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The magistrate imposed a nine-month intensive corrections order for the riot charge and a concurrent six-month ICO for assaulting the police officer.

He also ordered the 52-year-old complete 200 hours of community service.

El Khoury was supported by his wife and others in the courtroom.

A letter from his wife as well as the priest at St John the Beloved church in Mt Druitt painted a very different picture to the man seen at the riots, Devine said.

Earlier today, barrister Ian Lloyd KC said El Khoury had migrated to Australia decades ago, and owned his own demolition and excavation business.

His past criminal history consisted only of traffic and driving offences.

“Other than this blemish he has held an unblemished life and has been a good migrant to this country,” Lloyd has said.

El Khoury had accepted responsibility for his actions and had been taught a valuable lesson after being incarcerated for two-and-a-half months before his sentence, Lloyd argued.

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“I think we can be assured he will never come before the courts for this type of behaviour ever again,” he said.

Prosecutor Sergeant Ed Sharma said the court should look at the matter holistically.

He pointed out that although El Khoury was one of many gathered outside the Wakeley church, he was there to riot and cause violence.

Over 30 people have been charged over the riot, during which people outside the church demanded the teen who allegedly stabbed Assyrian bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and priest Isaac Royel be let out of the church and handed to the mob.

Dozens of police were injured and their cars vandalised during the violent gathering.

A 16-year-old boy has been charged with a terrorism offence over the stabbing, which police alleged was religiously motivated.

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