WHERE’S THE JUSTICE? – TAMILS FACING RIOT CHARGES BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE
Media Release May 19, 2010
Eight of nine Tamil asylum seekers facing riot charges from a fight on Christmas Island in November last year have begun a protest hunger strike in Perth detention centre.
The eight are angry at the long delay they are facing before trial. A hearing yesterday in the Perth Magistrates Court set a date of 6 September for four of the Tamils to face trial on Christmas Island.
A further hearing in June will set a date for another four trials. But unless the Commonwealth is willing to fund a longer September court sitting, their trials are not expected to begin until December, 2010. These dates mean that it has taken a year for these alleged offences to get to court.
The ninth Tamil already has trial date on Christmas Island set for 16.June.
Some of the men arrived in Christmas Island in June which means they will have been in detention well over a year before finally get their day in court.
“The old saying ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ has never been more applicable. It is a disgrace that these people have had to wait so long. The charges should never have been laid in the first place. They should be released,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
To add insult to injury two of the Tamils (and one of the Afghans also facing charges) have been told they have already been granted refugee visas but are being held in detention only because of the trial. One had even signed travel documents to leave Christmas Island.
“Why are they leaving us til December? They should process our visas. There is no reason for us to be in detention. We should be released and we go to trial and we see what is the result. We have been in detention to long,” one of the Tamils in Perth detention told the Refugee Action Coalition.
“The Tamils and the Afghans are being treated worse than criminals. They are being treated as if they were guilty. Under usual court system they would be released on bail. They are in detention for the crime of being asylum seekers. It is an abuse of process. Their time in detention is longer than any sentence they would likely get even if they are found to be guilty. Where’s the justice?” said Ian Rintoul
For more information contact Ian Rintoul: 0417 275 713