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New Zealand

Homophobic assault had 'profound effect' on victims, court told

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 12/07/2019 Matthew Theunissen
a group of people on a sidewalk in front of a building © RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

A victim of a vicious homophobic assault in central Auckland says he never thought he would have to endure such a thing in New Zealand.

Joden Martin claimed he was offended when he saw Newshub journalist Aziz Al-Sa'afin and his friend Fergus Fauvel standing outside a church, so attacked them, completely unprovoked.

Martin was due to be sentenced on charges of aggravated assault in the Auckland District Court today, but it was postponed after it emerged he is facing a charge in another court over a separate incident.

The attack took place during Pride Week in February when Mr Al-Sa'afin and Mr Fauvel were making their way down Karangahape Rd.

Joden Martin kicked and repeatedly punched both victims, while yelling homophobic slurs.

Mr Al-Sa'afin has previously said he thought he was going to die.

He told the court about the impact this random act of violence has had on his life.

"On that night, my friend Ferg and I were made to feel humiliated and worthless. The actions of Joden were intended to make us feel like we didn't belong, and that we were wrong in living our lives the way that we were," he said.

"We were assaulted verbally and physically and that left a profound effect on both our mental states."

Mr Al-Sa'afin said he would like to think this was an isolated incident, but sadly, he knows that's not the case.

"Homophobic rhetoric still exists out there, as do the people with the same kind of extremist views that Joden said he held.

"I grew up in a Catholic household. I know what religion is, and that isn't what religion is. I don't believe that those kind of extremist views belong here, or anywhere for that matter."

Martin started to cry as Mr Al-Sa'afin spoke to him directly.

"You have a lot of life left to live and you have a lot of learning to do. You changed my life and Ferg's life forever. What you did was not acceptable," Mr Al-Sa'afin said.

"But to move forward to help my own healing, I need to do this. I forgive you for what you did to me. And I hope that if there's anything that you take from today, it's that we all believe in the same thing. And that is love."

Martin's lawyer Judith Walshe said the assault took place on the anniversary of his father's death - something he had never processed.

She explained that his thinking had been "muddled", as she was questioned by Judge Robert Ronayne.

"He felt that these people he obviously just picked up on were being disrespectful," she said.

"How were they being disrespectful in his mind? They were standing in Auckland. How were they being disrespectful?" Judge Ronayne said.

"He instructed me that they were beside a church and for some reason ... " Ms Walshe said.

"Is that a serious submission?" Judge Ronayne asked, to which Ms Walshe replied it was not.

She said her client was very remorseful.

"I don't know how his grief and his muddled thinking turned into an assault. He seems to be not quite sure as well," Ms Walshe said.

"He thought they were homosexuals," Judge Ronayne interjected.

"I believe he did, sir," she said.

"When I queried that when he pleaded guilty you indicated to me that he has religious views," Judge Ronayne said.

Ms Walshe said that this had been put wrongly and he does not hold strong religious views.

Martin was remanded on bail until 3 December, when he will be sentenced over this and the other matter.

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