Page last updated at 03:46 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 04:46 UK

Biker violence prompts new laws

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Funeral for Anthony Zervas, victim of Sydney airport brawl, 27 Mar 09
A recent surge in motorcycle gang violence is prompting new laws

Australia's most populous state has drawn up tough new laws designed to tackle a surge in violence linked to motorcycle gangs.

The legislation will be considered by the New South Wales state cabinet and follows a fatal brawl involving rival biker groups at Sydney airport.

The brother of the man beaten to death in that fight has been seriously wounded in a gun attack.

He is now being kept under police guard in hospital.

The feud between rival motorcycle gangs in Australia's largest city has become an increasingly violent turf war over drugs and protection rackets.

Escalating violence

In recent months several drive-by shootings and even a bomb attack on the headquarters of one group of bikers have been linked to the dispute.

The authorities have been forced to act following a wild brawl at Sydney airport, where a man associated with the Hells Angels died after being bludgeoned with a metal pole in front of hundreds of horrified passengers.

It is alleged his attackers were members of the Comancheros.

In a sign of escalating tensions, the dead man's brother was shot several times outside his home in Sydney and is under police guard in hospital.

The New South Wales government has drawn up emergency legislation that it claims will dismantle the biker gangs and bring the violence to an end.

Under the proposals, the police would be able to apply to the courts to have a motorcycle group declared a "criminal organisation" and outlawed on the basis of intelligence about its alleged activities.

Critics have said the laws were draconian and would weaken fundamental human rights.

Sources within Australia's biker movement have warned that the gangs are gearing up for more vicious confrontation and have begun stockpiling weapons and bringing in reinforcements from overseas.

In response, the police in New South Wales have doubled the size of their gang squad with an extra 75 officers.

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