A family of five Tamil refugees – including a toddler born in detention almost three years ago – have been cleared for release by the Gillard government, averting a potentially damaging High Court challenge next week, The Australian newspaper reported.
The Rahavan family, who were detained after arriving from Sri Lanka, had been held indefinitely following secret ASIO assessments that deemed the parents a risk to national security.
The government’s reversal followed an independent review of the family’s ASIO assessments by former Federal Court judge Margaret Stone, who was appointed to audit the assessments in April, Fairfax Media reported.
The High Court was next Tuesday poised to begin hearing the father’s appeal against his detention, which could have invalidated the government’s capacity to detain genuine refugees who are rejected by ASIO indefinitely.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor’s spokesman said the family would remain in the community on bridging visas with the same reporting conditions that apply to all bridging visa holders requiring them to keep the department informed of their current address, and any proposed change of address.
The family’s clearance for release came as the Australian Federal Police was seeking clarification from Egyptian authorities amid growing doubts about the background of Maksoud Abdel Latif, an alleged terrorist who slipped into Australia as an asylum-seeker.
Questions have emerged about the soundness of Mr Latif’s convictions in absentia by an Egyptian military of multiple charges, including murder, during the Mubarak regime.
AFP national manager for counter-terrorism Peter Drennan stressed the information given to a Senate committee last week was accurate, in that it was a true reading of an Interpol red notice the AFP had reconfirmed in January. But he said police were seeking to confirm information on the notice and to see if it matched other information held by the Egyptians.
“The issue is whether or not the offences which were listed of murder, destruction of property etc are actually matters for which he was convicted,” he said.
It is understood Egyptian authorities have not sought to extradite Mr Latif nor sought access to him, despite knowing his whereabouts since June last year.