Nauru: first two asylum seekers found guilty of riot are sentenced to jail

5 June: The first two asylum seekers convicted of rioting at the Nauru detention centre have been sentenced to jail.

In July 2013, asylum seekers torched the centre, causing $60m worth of damage. Newly built accommodation blocks, the health centre, offices, the dining room and vehicles were burnt. Only the kitchen and recreation facility remained standing.

Sixty-three asylum seekers face criminal charges stemming from the riots.

On Thursday the Nauru magistrate Ropate Cabealawa sentenced one asylum seeker to two years and five months in jail for unlawful assembly and rioting convictions. The second asylum seeker, convicted of rioting, will serve 11 months at the Nauru correctional centre.

Cabealawa said he had taken into account the defendants’ personal circumstances and had reduced their sentences by one month for time spent in custody.

He wanted to send a strong message of deterrence and rejected requests for suspended sentences. “Their conduct is completely abhorred and rejected by society,” he said.

The asylum seekers have one month to appeal against their sentences.

A spokeswoman for the Nauru government said the convictions would not affect the asylum seekers’ claims for refugee status, but might affect settlement.

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