Hazara refugee threatens to sue Aunty
THE AUSTRALIAN | JUNE 14, 2012 12:00AM
National Security Correspondent
A HAZARA refugee named on the ABC’s Four Corners program as an “agent”
of people smugglers is threatening legal action against the national broadcaster unless an apology is issued and the “defamatory” claims withdrawn.
Medhi Rezaiee was named as collecting a payment on behalf of his brother, Mohammed Ali, as part of a Four Corners program into people-smuggling activities in Australia.
He was filmed by hidden camera and his mobile phone number was broadcast when a screenshot of a receipt he signed went to air.
Mr Rezaiee, who came to Australia by boat more than a decade ago, was alleged to have collected the payment on behalf of his brother, who it was claimed brokered the passage of asylum-seekers to Australia. The brother was allegedly working with people-smugglers in Jakarta.
Mr Rezaiee admitted to The Australian he heard later that his brother was working with people-smugglers. However, at the time Mr Rezaiee said he had no idea what the money, which was transferred via a grocery shop in Dandenong, Victoria, was for.
Nor did he know he had been filmed and named as part of an expose until contacted by the media.
Horrified, Mr Rezaiee consulted a lawyer, Dominic Green, who yesterday wrote to the ABC seeking an apology and the removal from its website of all materials that contained claims against Mr Rezaiee. “Our client is suffering and he is asking for an apology and these things to be removed,” Mr Green said yesterday.
“On the basis of all available facts it does appear, prima facie, as a case of textbook defamation.”
Mr Green said Mr Rezaiee had received “a large number of harassing and threatening calls” and as a consequence now feared for his own safety, as well as the safety of his wife and children.
Moreover, Mr Green said none of the allegations aired by Four Corners were put to Mr Rezaiee prior to the broadcast.
Mr Green said his client was seeking a “quick resolution” to the matter. “Which is ultimately the withdrawal of any and all related publication and a public apology and clarification of the fact that the allegations were unsubstantiated and he never had a chance to respond,” Mr Green said.
“There is nothing whatsoever to indicate that it’s true and no inquiries were made of him.”
Mr Green said his client was currently in hospital for an undisclosed condition but Mr Green said it “related to his anxiety and his inability to sleep”.
The prospect of legal action against the ABC came as a spokesman for the UNHCR told The Australian that the whistleblower at the centre of the Four Corners report, Iraqi national Hussain Nasir, had had his refugee status revoked whilst in Indonesia.
“We can confirm his status was revoked and it was not reinstated. Beyond that we do not comment on individual cases,” the spokesman said. It is not clear why Mr Nasir’s status was revoked and The Australian was unable to contact him yesterday.
However, at a speech in Sydney earlier this year ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson made reference to allegations of war crimes whilst Mr Nasir was a soldier with the Iraqi army.
However, Ferguson said the UNHCR produced no evidence against Mr Nasir and the allegations against him were later “set aside”. Mr Nasir appears to have entered Australia under the humanitarian program, but not as a recognised refugee.