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Headmaster optimistic over Bakhtiyari claims re-examination

The head of the Adelaide school attended by two boys of the celebrated Bakhtiyari asylum seeker family has expressed optimism that fresh attempts to prove they really are from Afghanistan, not Pakistan, will vindicate the family and lead to a more humane attitude on the part of the Australian Government.

The Age reported at the weekend that the Bakhtiyari family has not given up trying to prove they really are from Afghanistan, not Pakistan. It said they were "pilloried" by the Federal Government as fake asylum seekers but "embraced by others as the living proof of Australia's inhumanity towards refugees".

Fr Greg O'Kelly of the Jesuits' St Ignatius College has highlighted the attempt of the family's lawyer Steven Churches to seek a reopening of the case on two grounds: that the Refugee Review Tribunal behaved inappropriately by pushing aside material it found too difficult to deal with, including linguistic analyses that concluded Mr Bakhtiyari was from Afghanistan, and because new evidence from Afghanistan had emerged.

Ali Bakhtiyari, held at the Baxter detention centre near Port Augusta in South Australia while his wife, Roqia, and six children live in community detention in Adelaide, has pursued an appeal to the full court of the Federal Court, which will decide soon whether his nationality can be re-examined.

When denying Mr Bakhtiyari a visa in August last year, the tribunal said early linguistic tests concluded the couple could, "with considerable certainty be said to originate from Quetta, Pakistan". Later faced with two linguistic analyses by an expert used elsewhere by the Federal Court, Jan Mohammed, and an Australian Dari interpreter, Abdul Yosufi, both of whom said Mr Bakhtiyari was from Afghanistan, the tribunal said the tests were inconclusive.

Instead, it gave "great weight" to the evidence of journalists Russell Skelton, from The Age, and the late Alastair McLeod, of The Australian, who travelled to the village of Charkh, south-west of the Afghan capital Kabul, and could not find evidence the family had lived there.

"The tribunal gave its greatest weight to journalistic accounts," Dr Churches said. "We submit that it is really inappropriate . . . to sweep aside linguistic analyses and say, 'I'll just rest on the newspaper accounts'."

Dr Churches said a separate ground for reopening the case was the arrival of new evidence from Afghanistan. He said this was sent by Mrs Bakhtiyari's brother-in-law, Mahzer Ali, whose protest on the razor-wire fence of the Woomera detention centre in 2002 made international headlines.

Pictured: Mantazer, left, and Alamdar Bakhtiyari leaving their temporary home for St Ignatius College in Adelaide on Friday.

Court to re-examine Bakhtiyari claims (The Age 27/8/04)

Centacare director 'devastated' by Govt demands (CathNews 30/6/04)
St Ignatius College
Police alert sparks boatpeople fear (The Australian 31/8/04)

31 Aug 2004