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Five suspects in Ozone Park Sikh attack indicted

The five men are alleged to have beaten Rajinder Singh Khalsa unconscious outside a Richmond Hill catering hall after reportedly calling his and his cousin's turbans "dirty curtains."The Sikh religion requires men to wear turbans, which has left them vulnerable to attack in New York City and the rest of the country in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 because their dress resembles that worn by the Taliban in Afghanistan and terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden."Hate crimes do more than threaten the safety and welfare of all citizens," Brown said. "They inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage and tear at the very fabric of free society."The five men facing charges - Salvatore Maceli, 26, Nicholas Maceli, 22, and Victor Cosentino, 58, of Valley Stream, L.I.; Ryan Meehan, 24, of Forest Hills; and Terence Lyons, 53, of Elmont, L.I. - were attending the christening of Salvatore Maceli's child inside the catering hall where the attack occurred.Brown said Nicholas and Salvatore Maceli are brothers, Cosentino is their stepfather, and Lyons is their uncle. Meehan is believed to be a friend of Nicholas Maceli, Brown said.All five men could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted on the charges.In the days and weeks following the July 11 attack against Khalsa, the Sikh community rallied with politicians and community activists demanding that police act swiftly to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. Protests at the 102nd Precinct, which handled the initial investigation, and at Borough Hall called for an end to the hate crimes against Sikhs.Although initially the Sikh community expressed concerns over police investigations into the attack on Khalsa, Amardeep Singh, legal director for the Sikh Coalition, said the community was satisfied with the response and success in this case."We are really pleased with the bias crimes bureau and task force. This time they've really made this issue a priority," Singh said.Harpreet Singh Toor, president of the Sikh Cultural Center in Richmond Hill, said the arrests help, but the problems still continue."We see there has been definite success here," he said. "But as soon as we let our guards down something like this will happen again. That is the issue we need to address. Now we need to take steps to prevent this from happening again."Debate as to what type of punishment will truly be beneficial differs within the community. While many agree the five men deserve to be jailed if they are found guilty of the beating, which has left Khalsa with numerous fractures to his face, Toor said he thinks the punishment should address the root of the problem.The attackers "should get penalized for beating that poor gentleman," he said. "But did they really learn anything from this? Have they learned about the Sikh community? I think part of their punishment should require them to go to the Gurdwara so they can really learn and gain respect for us instead of hatred."Singh said he thinks this alternative in addition to other punishment might be helpful, but it depends on the person."If they're truly sorry and want to become better people, it definitely makes sense," Singh said. "In one case, we did have someone come here to learn about us and join us in fighting similar crimes and it really helped that person and it helps our community understand people can change."Singh said recent developments have begun to restore the faith of the Sikh people, especially after they first thought their pleas to the police had not been taken seriously."It's not over yet, but we've seen some big steps made," he said. "We can see the system of justice really does work here -even for us."Reach editorial intern Mallory Simon by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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