31 Jan. 2007

So there's this Iraqi guy, Muhammad Faisal, and he flees his country and seeks refuge in Australia. But the Australian government locks him up in a foreign gulag detention centre for over five years, calling him a threat to national security, without any evidence to back up their claims, and the compliant media barely touches the story.

Faisal ends up trying to kill himself and is transferred to a psychiatric unit, where a psychotic Vietnam War vet tries to make his life even more hellish.

Then, after five years of detention, ASIO suddenly decides that Mo Faisal is actually not a threat at all. And it's the WMD defence all over again for the Howard government:
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock denied ASIO made a mistake in its original assessments.
"They made a decision on the basis of information that was before them at the time," he said.
So here's my questions:

1. What changed? Why was Faisal originally deemed a security threat? Show us the "intelligence". Did ASIO have his name on a list and not realize that there are a few million people on this planet called Muhammad Faisal? Was this all part of the "children overboard" cover-up? Or was the government just scared that this case could have triggered a massive wave of refugees from a country that we had just invaded?

2. How much taxpayer money has the Australian government wasted on Faisal's detention and legal costs?

3. Why is a fellow detainee, Mohammed Sagar, now being given sanctuary in Sweden rather than coming into Australia?

Let me just add this, a measure of the man in question and surely a lesson for us all:
[Faisal] says he bears no ill will at all to those responsible for the policy or the decisions that reduced him to a suicidal mess.

"I am not angry. I just feel tired," he says.

His greatest joy is that he could finally tell his parents, who remain in Baghdad, the truth about his situation. In the 18 months since he was first deemed a security risk by ASIO, he says he has felt compelled to lie to stop them worrying about him.

Maintaining the pretence that he was free and happy and doing well in Australia when he was at his lowest ebb was, he maintains, the hardest part of living in limbo.