Radio New Zealand
Amnesty International said that a new charge filed against the Manus Island asylum seeker who escaped to Fiji could violate Papua New Guinea’s Law of Double Jeopardy.
Loghman Sawari was arrested after a court hearing in Port Moresby on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, where he was on trial for using false information to obtain a passport.
That charge was made under the Passport Act and Amnesty said that the new charge was virtually identical but had been filed under the Migration Act.
Trial loss worry
Amnesty’s Kate Schuetze said that the new charge could indicate that the prosecution was in danger of losing the current trial.
“They are by and large the same charges. This is violating his right to a fair trial and in breach of the Double Jeopardy Law. It seems like they have laid these charges just at the time when the court is considering an application to dismiss the previous charges because of lack of evidence,” she said
Ms Schuetze said that Loghman Sawari was still in police custody.
Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in a statement that Sawari had breached Fiji’s immigration law.
The following is his Statement issued on February 2, 2017:
Loghman Sawari was deported from Fiji to Papua New Guinea today after entering Fiji on a Papua New Guinean passport.
He is claiming to be a refugee but did not present himself as a refugee seeking asylum to immigration officials on arrival in Fiji. Nor, after ten days, did he lodge an application for asylum, personally or through his lawyer.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has advised Fiji that Sawari is not recognised as a refugee under the UNHCR mandate. It has further advised that he is a refugee recognised by Papua New Guinea under its national procedures. So, Fiji has merely returned Sawari to his rightful place of residence.
Sawari eluded the authorities during his ten days in Fiji while posting photographs of himself on social media at various locations.
Under international law, anyone who is seeking political asylum is required to lodge an application without delay. In the case of Sawari, this did not happen.
His lawyer, who has been publicly advocating his position through the media, failed to facilitate a prompt application required under international conventions pertaining to applications for refugee status.
Officials in Fiji have been informed by their Papua New Guinean counterparts that Sawari’s Papua New Guinea passport was obtained by fraudulent means.
Breach of Fijian law
On this basis, Sawari was also in breach of Fijian law which states that “A person who knowingly misleads or attempts to mislead any immigration officer in relation to any matter material to the performance or exercise by any immigration officer of any duty, function, power or discretion…commits an offence.”
The government notes that Sawari is claiming that he feared for his life. This begs the question as to why for ten days he failed to file an application for asylum. Despite several attempts by the Immigration Department to engage with Sawari, these attempts were ignored.
Fiji remains fully committed to the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, but we cannot tolerate a situation in which a person who is not an asylum seeker and who has already been granted refugee status in another country flagrantly violates the law.
Loghman Safari outside the Court
(Courtesy: ABC Picture by Eric Tiozek)