26 Apr 2004

Australian lawyer accuses Nauru minister of contempt of court

4:01 pm on 26 April 2004

An Australian lawyer representing asylum seekers says Nauru's justice minister is in contempt of court by appointing local lawyers to represent the refugees.

Julian Burnside QC has mounted a case against the detention of asylum-seekers on Nauru, but he and his colleague had their visas revoked while lawyers representing the Australian government were allowed to fly to Nauru.

Mr Burnside says they were due in court in Nauru this afternoon, and had visas approved by the acting consul in Australia last week.

"To add to the farce, this morning I understand the minister for justice in Nauru is saying that he has appointed a local lawyer to act for the asylum seekers in this afternoon's case and he's also said that Nauru doesn't need high-rollers coming across from Australia to argue cases. It's OK for them to send high-rollers across but it's not OK for the asylum seekers."

Julian Burnside says he doubts that the court will be able to deal with it.