June 28: Four asylum seekers who took part in a violent uprising which caused $9 million in damage to the Villawood detention centre have been jailed for their parts in the 2011 riots.
Serco’s detention centre staff were pelted with roof tiles and threatened with uprooted soccer goalposts as detainees repeatedly chanted “freedom’’ during the wild protests, the Supreme Court heard today.
Several asylum seekers were also heard shouting: “F… Australia, f… immigration, f… Serco”.
Justice Robert Hulme this morning said he accepted the men’s behaviour was born out of “frustration and despair” at being held in the centre, but that didn’t excuse “mob violence”.
“Nobody can question that there is a right to protest, but the use of violence is completely unacceptable,” he said.
The four men, Mohammed Naim Amiri, Taleb Feili, Majid Parhizar and Ali Haidari, were found guilty of rioting during a trial earlier this year in which 12 Iraqi and Afghani asylum seekers were initially accused of the crime.
Justice Hulme today sentenced them to spend a minimum of between 14 and 22 months behind bars, although with time already served the first will be eligible for release in October.
Supporters cried and hugged the men before they were taken into custody.
All of the asylum seekers are facing potential deportation once their sentences finished, with their immigration status left “in limbo’’ for more than two years while the court case was pending.
Parhizar, who first arrived on Christmas Island nearly four years ago, had his applications for refugee status knocked back three times and also lost a court appeal against the refusal.
Outside the court, refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said the mens’ sentences were “inordinately harsh’’ after everything they had been through.
“It’s no crime to seek asylum in Australia, but people have been in detention now for three or four years – punished for something that they haven’t done,’’ he said.
Justice Hulme previously sentenced three other asylum seekers who took part in the riots to between 15 and 18 months in jail.