Refugee who attempted suicide prosecuted and threatened with jail

Sam Nemati was arrested and separated from his eight-year-old daughter

Matt Broomfield
Saturday 16 April 2016 13:53 BST
Staff members have described Nauru's detention centre as "like a concentration camp"
Staff members have described Nauru's detention centre as "like a concentration camp" (Getty)

An Iranian refugee housed by the Australian government on the island of Nauru has been found guilty of attempting to kill himself.

Sam Nemati was fined A$200 (£110) and threatened with a jail sentence, in a move prosecutors said was meant to "deter other offenders who resort to self-harm... to get what they want".

While awaiting the verdict, he was separated from his eight-year-old daughter, Aysa.

Prior to his arrest, Mr Nemati had been held in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre for two years, before being released into the community.

In January, Mr Nemati moved to another area of the island where there were more children for Aysa to play with. Nauru police attempted to seize his belongings and forcibly return him to his original facility, causing Mr Nemati to become distressed and attempt to take his own life.

He was taken to hospital before being charged and transferred to a detention centre to await his court case. During the three months he was incarcerated, he was not able to see his daughter.

Along with witchcraft, sorcery and fortune-telling, attempting suicide remains an offence under Nauru's 19th-century criminal code.

The crime comes with a recommended sentence of "imprisonment with hard labour for one year", and prosecutors had unsuccessfully pushed for a custodial sentence.

In a statement, the Nauran government said: "Written submissions were made by the prosecutor to impose a custodial sentence of between one and two months to deter other offenders who resort to self-harm to avoid lawful actions against them or to get what they want.

"We are concerned this method is being used and want to stamp out this practice."

Border tensions: Macedonian police fire tear gas at refugees

Magistrate Emma Garo said her sentence would give Mr Nemati "the opportunity to prove to himself that life is worth living, but with a responsibility to be thoughtful and considerate of others in the community,”

All asylum-seekers travelling by boat to Australia are turned away, or detained in refugee camps in Nauru or Papua New Guinea to await processing. Even if found to be legal refugees, they are not allowed to permanently resettle in Australia.

Bona fide refugees, such as Mr Nemati, often spend years in detention in offshore camps where human rights abuses are allegedly rampant.

Staff members have described the detention centre as "like a concentration camp" and signed an open letter alleging repeated sexual assaults on detainees by guards.

An independent review found evidence of "sexual favours being exchanged for marijuana" and the rape of detainees, including children.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in