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‘Australia has questions to answer’

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The Australian government has serious questions to answer over its failure to guarantee the safety of a key witness to the murder of asylum seeker Reza Barati, according to a United Nations official.

He is one of two men allegedly tortured inside a secret compound in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.

Mr Satah was one of two roommates of Barati. He spoke to the ABC from inside the Manus Island detention centre, where he said he faced daily intimidation from PNG guards despite being promised witness protection by local authorities.

“They want me dead,” Mr Satah said.

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“They have increased their pressure every day since Reza died. How many times can I survive more?”

UN special rapporteur Juan Mendez detailed the torture of Mr Satah and another Iranian man in a report tabled at the UN’s Human Rights Council earlier this year.

The two men were allegedly tortured by local PNG guards inside the Chauka compound on Manus Island and threatened with rape unless they retracted sworn statements that detailed events on the night of Barati’s murder.

Mr Mendez told the ABC that more than six months since the report was tabled, he was not satisfied with the Australian government’s response to the torture allegations.

He also said Australia had not done enough to protect key witnesses to the Barati murder.

“I think it’s never too late for Australia to do what it should have done some time ago,” Mr Mendez said from Washington.

“Providing witness protection is something that should have been done on a timely basis, but it can still be done and I’m hoping that the Australian government will decide to do so.”

‘I have seen how they kill people’

Until late last month when he was forcibly escorted to a Manus Island court, Mr Satah had been refusing to give evidence against the two men accused of the Barati murder, PNG locals Joshua Kaluvia and Louie Efi.

Two expatriates, an Australian national and a New Zealand national, who were also allegedly responsible for Barati’s murder, have so far escaped justice. The Barati trial is currently adjourned.

“I have seen how they kill people,” Mr Satah said.

“I can’t sleep well. My legs never stop shaking and I feel pain in my chest and my head all the time.”

Photo: ABC
Reza Barati was allegedly murdered in PNG Photo: ABC

Last month, Mr Satah was promised protection by the PNG judge presiding in the Barati murder case and the operators of the Manus Island detention centre, and eventually gave evidence in court.

He said he spent the next 15 days in a special area called SAA compound which was isolated from the local guards. But then he said a group came into the compound to intimidate him.

“Eight locals to come to SAA, including one of the locals who was involved in Reza Barati’s murder,” Mr Satah said.

“They sent them deliberately to frighten me and force me to go back [to Iran].”

Mr Satah said he asked to be moved to another compound, where he is now subject to ongoing intimidation.

“I’m in Foxtrot compound in M block and there is no camera here. Every day, many locals come and sit in the back of my room for three or four hours a day. They want to agitate me and force me to go back to my country,” he said.

“I don’t feel safe here because security already killed my best friend and they proved they can’t provide safety for anyone in here and they are trying to agitate me every day by exposing me to locals.”

Mr Mendez said Australia had questions to answer over its response to the Barati murder.

– with ABC

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