23 Apr 2004

Lawyers meet delays with Nauru over detainees

7:58 pm on 23 April 2004

A case in which Australian lawyers are fighting for the release of immigration detainees on Nauru has been held up because the island state's phones had been cut off.

Lawyer Eric Vadarlis says an exchange of documents by fax was delayed for three weeks because the Nauru government, in a dire financial crisis, had not paid its phone bill.

He said he believed the entire country had been cut off. Some service has now been restored and the lawyer has received faxes.

The matter against the Nauru government had earlier been before Supreme Court judge Justice Bernard Bongiorno who is expected to preside over another hearing being brought against the Australian government.

Julian Burnside, QC, told the court that he had now been granted a visa to travel to Nauru, having earlier been refused one.

But he said he and other lawyers expecting to travel to Nauru still had another legal obstacle to overcome.

He said the Nauru justice minister had refused to waive a four-week delay to allow for a character background check to be made on the Australian lawyers intending to appear in their courts.

If they were not allowed to appear themselves then a local lawyer would stand in.