AFP bid to block asylum evidence

By Dan Box, Lauren Wilson
15 December 2007

THE Australian Federal Police has dramatically intervened to block controversial evidence in a Federal Court battle between a convicted people-smuggler and the Department of Immigration.

Ali al-Jenabi, an Iraqi asylum-seeker, has spent the past 12 months in the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, despite a recommendation by an Immigration officer that Australia had a ``protection obligation'' to him.

While full details of the evidence the AFP successfully sought to have ruled inadmissible yesterday are not known, it is understood to include a sworn affidavit by AFP Deputy Commissioner Tony Negus and a second document sent by the force to the Department of Immigration.

Counsel for the AFP Peter Singleton argued that all copies of documents should be either returned to the police or held by the court, while any legal notes made from the documents should be destroyed.

``(This evidence is) said to be questioning the role and the motives for the role of the AFP in the processing of the protection visa,'' Mr Singleton said. The AFP had no such role and as a result, ``the motives for is having a role that we did not have could not possibly be relevant'', he said.

Sections of a second affidavit, sworn by Mr al-Jenabi's solicitor Stephen Blanks, were also ruled inadmissible after an application by AFP lawyers. These sections are understood to refer to comments by Labor senator John Faulkner, published in the 2002 Senate Select Committee report on the sinking of the SIEV X, in which more than 350 people died.

Senator Faulkner is critical of the AFP's role in disrupting the departure of boats full of asylum-seekers and particularly of the alleged actions of a police informer, Kevin Ennis, who police have claimed was directly involved in people-smuggling.

Mr Ennis has subsequently denied that he was a people-smuggler.

Shane Price, counsel representing Mr al-Jenabi told the court there might have been some ``ulterior motive'' for the communication between the AFP and the Department of Immigration.

``The interaction of the Department of Immigration and the Australian Federal Police has in the past been a matter for concern,'' Mr Price said.

Mr al-Jenabi, who spent six years in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison after refusing to fight for Saddam Hussein, was convicted in Darwin in 2003 of people- smuggling and served four years in jail.

In June last year he lodged a protection application with the Department of Immigration, and in December 2006, a report by departmental officer Kate Watson said his conviction for people-smuggling was no reason for refusing to offer him protection.

Despite this, and while a decision on his application should legally have been made within 90 days, Mr al-Jenabi's case remains unresolved after 12months. The case, before judge Kevin Lindgren, was adjourned until next Wednesday.


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