Manus Island riot: Detainee murder trial to begin

People places flowers and cards next to the portrait of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati during a candlelight vigil in support of asylum seekers. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A riot on Manus Island last year saw scores injured and Iranian Reza Barati killed

Two men face trial over the death of a detainee at the Manus Island detention centre on Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Monday's trial on the island comes more than 18 months after Iranian Reza Barati, 23, was killed in a riot at the Australian-run centre in February 2014.

Scores of people were injured in the riot, including one who was shot and another who was blinded in one eye.

PNG men Salvation Army worker Joshua Kaluvia and camp guard Louie Efi have been charged with Mr Barati's murder.

Australia sends asylum seekers arriving by boat to offshore camps in PNG and the Pacific nation of Nauru for detention and processing.

Conditions in these camps have been strongly criticised by UN agencies and rights groups.

Several attackers

An Australian government report released in May 2014 concluded Mr Barati was "attacked by a number of people".

It said also one of the witnesses to the attack was afraid to report it to PNG Police.

Mr Kaluvia told media he and Mr Efi would be convicted "so that nobody else, no Australians or New Zealanders who are responsible, have to face justice".

"We have to take the blame for them because we are PNG," he told the Guardian Australia.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The UN has criticised conditions in Australia's offshore detention centres

A senate committee report that last year examined the events that led up to the outbreak of violence at the camp found that the riot was "eminently foreseeable" and could have been prevented if the asylum seekers had been on a "clear pathway" for assessing their refugee claims.

Security provider G4S Australia, which was managing the centre at the time, had noted in daily reports that there was heightened tension, saying some detainees had prepared weapons.

In 2013, the centre was transformed from a mixed facility into one housing single adult males.

It also saw a "massive influx" of new asylum seekers, resulting in the centre housing more than double its intended capacity.

"It is clear from evidence presented to the committee that the Australian Government failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers including Mr Barati from harm," the report stated.

Australia and asylum

  • Asylum seekers - mainly from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Iran - travelled to Australia's Christmas Island by boat from Indonesia
  • The number of boats rose sharply in 2012 and early 2013. Scores of people died making the journey
  • To stop the influx, the government adopted hard-line measures intended as a deterrent
  • Everyone who arrives by boat is now detained and processed in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Those found to be refugees will be resettled in PNG, Nauru or Cambodia

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Media caption'It was like a horror film,' says an eye-witness of the 2014 Manus riots

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