10 December: Sixteen asylum seekers on Nauru appeared at the island’s tiny local court on Monday, accused of causing $24,000 in damage at a riot at the processing centre in September.
Their charges include riot, rioting injuring buildings and wilful damage. Additional charges of common assault were levelled against four men, Nauru government spokesman Rod Henshaw said.
All are being tried under Nauruan law, and the charges carry possible jail terms of up to seven years. Two of the group have voluntarily returned to Iran since the incident.
The group’s last appearance on November 18 was an emotional one, with asylum seekers at first refusing to participate over concerns they would not get a fair trial. Then, the men had refused to leave their bus outside Nauru’s tiny courthouse for two hours after being told they would be represented by a man they had not met, the island’s public defender.
Local lawyer Pres-Nimes Ekwona agreed to represent the men at that hearing, and it is believed he represented the men again on Monday, although he warned he would be unable to represent all the defendants.
Four men were unable to appear in court for medical reasons, Mr Henshaw said.
The asylum seekers were not required to enter a plea, but it is expected they will be required to plead guilty or not guilty when they reappear on January 14.