21 April 2009

Australian university and Australia's courts run roughshod over Japanese legal scholar


International Student Trial a Travesty of Justice
Thursday, 26 March 2009, 12:57 pm
Press Release: The Refugee Action Collective

Media Release: Human Rights Advocates label International Student Trial a Travesty of Justice

Thursday March 26, 2009
Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition
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The trial and conviction of Megumi Ogawa, a Japanese international PhD student, in the Queensland District Court has been labeled a travesty by refugee and human rights advocates.

Ms Ogawa was convicted in the Brisbane District Court on Thursday, 19 March of four counts of using a carriage service to harass and make threats to kill. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday 27 March at 10.00am.

"The system has failed Megumi Ogawa," said Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, "This trial should never have taken place. Megumi has been pursued relentlessly by Australian authorities. Her victimization has taken a severe toll on her health, her studies and her career since she came to Australia as an international student This trial is just the latest in a long list of injustices and denial of Megumi’s human and civil rights. We are shocked that the judge has added to the list by charging her with contempt of court."

"The serious questions of Megumi’s mental health and concerns about her ability to represent herself in court have been brushed aside. There is a dark cloud over what rights anyone who is mentally ill can expect before the courts."

"Megumi has been fighting for justice since 2002, when Melbourne University wrongfully cancelled her enrolment and the Department of Immigration subsequently cancelled her student visa. She spent ten weeks in Villawood detention centre, threatened with deportation in 2006 and now faces deportation again," said Ian Rintoul.

Megumi’s case has the hallmarks of the system failure, abuse of process and suspicious collaboration between government departments reminiscent of the treatment of Cornelia Rau and Mohammed Haneef.

A letter obtained under Freedom of Information, written by the person who was to be the lead escort in Megumi’s removal from Villawood in 2006, refers to Megumi having "upset a few of the top brass in NatO [National Office] & they want her out…’.

After her deportation was stopped and she was released from Villawood, Federal Police proceeded with charges against her. This was three months after the alleged events!

"Just as in the case of Mohammed Haneef, there is evidence that the Department of Immigration colluded with the Federal Police and the Department of Public Prosecutions to continue their pursuit of Megumi. When it became clear that Megumi would be released from Villawood, a further FOI document details that a representative of the Immigration department contacted the Department of Public Prosecutions to ‘recommend that DPP pursue the current prosecution and consider pursuing the outstanding matters,’ " Rintoul continued.

"In December 2006, the Federal Court found that Megumi had been the victim of circumstances and requested then Minister of Immigration, Amanda Vanstone to use her public interest powers to correct the injustice.

"Despite requests from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Department of Immigration has obstructed justice by refusing to make reports to the Ministerial Intervention Unit. Successive Ministers for Immigration have failed to act to rectify the Department’s past mistakes.

An appeal will be launched against Megumi’s conviction. We are urging the present Immigration Minister Chris Evans to urgently intervene to grant permanent residence and avoid any further miscarriage of justice."

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