Heavily pregnant Muslim woman 'feared for her life' during brutal Sydney cafe attack
Stipe "Steven" Lozina approached 38-week pregnant Rana Elasmar, 32, who was visiting Bay Vista Dessert Bar & Café in Paramatta, a suburb in Greater Sydney, with friends in November last year.
Elasmar was then hit with a flurry of punches before being stomped on her head in a random attack.
She told the Paramatta district court on Tuesday that she turned her abdomen away and prayed to God to protect her child.
"If nobody intervened, I could have been killed," she said. "I remember thinking – hit my head as long as you don’t touch my baby."
Elasmar, who was wearing a hijab at the time, said the 44-year-old man had first asked her for money. He then screamed "you Muslims raped my mum" before launching the attack, which Elasmar said she believed was motivated by Islamophobia.
The incident had "destroyed my passion for life" and left her young children fearing strangers, she told the court.
"But it has also lit a fire," she said. "Islamophobia needs to end. Violence against women needs to stop."
The perpetrator, who appeared in court without legal representation, said he attacked Elasmar because she did not give him money.
When crown prosecutor Sara Gul probed Lozina with direct questions over whether his actions were motivated by a hatred of Muslims, he refused to answer.
"I don’t hate them," Lozina eventually said. "But I don’t get on with them. I have no business with them."
The 44-year-old, who has long history of crime and mental illness, said he was "chronic paranoid schizophrenic" and
expressed remorse for his actions.
Six weeks earlier, Lozina had verbally abused two Muslim women wearing veils, crown prosecutor Sara Gul told the court.
The judge described the attack as "wicked and deplorable" and "one of the more difficult" cases he had dealt with in a long time.
Lozina in June pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He is scheduled to next face court on 1 October after Tuesday's hearing was adjourned.
The victim, now a mother of four, gave birth to baby boy, Zayn, three weeks after the attack, according to media report.
Muslim make up 2.6 percent of the total Australian population, according to the country's 2016 census.
A 2019 analysis of hate crimes found that Muslim women and girls were overwhelmingly the targets of nearly 350 Islamophobic incidents reported over a two-year period.
Sixty percent of attacks occurred in public in 2016 and 2017, nearly double the proportion of recorded incidents in the previous 15 months, according to the report.