Asylum seekers jailed on Nauru over riot

Workers extinguish the last smouldering embers after riots at the Australian detention and processing centre on Nauru in  July ,  2013.
Workers extinguish the last smouldering embers after riots at the Australian detention and processing centre on Nauru in July , 2013.

Two asylum seekers have been jailed on Nauru for their involvement in a riot last year, with the judge declaring the sentences were designed to deter "potential offenders".

One asylum seeker received a two year and five months sentence for "unlawful assembly and riot", while the other asylum seeker received a reduced sentence of 11 months.

The ruling came as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said ‘‘a number’’ of asylum seekers on Christmas Island had been taken to hospital for x-rays following a bloody clash with security staff on Tuesday.

In handing down the sentences, Magistrate Ropate Cabealawa told the Nauruan court he wanted to send out a strong message that the conduct was rejected by society.

"The purpose of sentencing the accused persons today is deterrence," he said.

"This is deliberately done to send out a strong deterrent message to the offenders and potential offenders that their conduct is completely abhorred and rejected by society. Those who indulge in these kinds of activities should expect to receive long sentences."

The Nauruan government said the riot had cost $60 million in damages, in which a fire destroyed newly constructed accommodation blocks, the health centre, offices, the dining room and vehicles. Only the kitchen and recreation facility remained standing at the time.

There are 63 asylum seekers facing criminal charges stemming from the riots.

In a day of political upheaval, the Nauruan government also suspended a further two opposition MPs from parliament, having last month banned three for criticising the government in international media.

Sprent Dabwido – the former president who struck the deal with Julia Gillard in 2012 to return asylum seeker processing to Nauru – was one of the MPs suspended on Thursday, along with Squire Jeramiah.

Both had been involved in a scuffle inside parliament last month after police marched into the chamber to remove opposition MP Kieran Keke, who had refused to leave after his suspension.

It comes as Mr Morrison confirmed at least two asylum seekers had ''suspected fractures'' as a result of this week's protest on Christmas Island.

''A number of detainees have been taken to hospital to undergo x-rays following the resolution of protest action,'' a spokeswoman for the Minister said.

''Two people have suspected fractures but require follow up x-rays and clinical correlation to confirm whether injuries are new or pre-existing.''

The spokeswoman said the facility was ''undergoing a phased return to normal operations''.

''Programs and activities have resumed and detainees have access to all facilities and services,'' she said.

with Daniel Flitton

This story Asylum seekers jailed on Nauru over riot first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.