Refugee murdered in Gaza

By Dan Goldberg, August 7, 2008

A Palestinian denied asylum in Australia and deported back to Gaza has been found dead.

Akram Al-Masri, 32, sought refuge in Australia after arriving by boat in 2001. He was incarcerated in Woomera, South Australia, one of Australia's most notorious detention centres, before being released in 2002 by a landmark decision of the full bench of the Federal Court.

The judgment, which ruled that the Federal Government's mandatory detention of asylum-seekers while their cases were being reviewed was illegal, was upheld by the High Court in Canberra. The landmark case led to the release of other asylum-seekers.

Mr Al-Masri, a father-of-four, was refused an Australian visa by John Howard's government and was later deported to Gaza, despite telling Australian authorities he feared for his life.

The al-Masri family has been locked in a bitter feud with the Abu Taha clan for several years, claiming more than a dozen Palestinian lives. It is alleged that Mr al-Masri was killed because of his involvement in a murder of two members of the Abu Taha clan.

David Zyngier, a founder of Jews for Refugees, which campaigned against the mandatory detention policy of the previous government, said Mr al-Masri's death was a tragedy.

"Here's a guy who tried to find a new life in Australia, forced to go back to Gaza and he gets killed. He didn't want to be there. John Howard and all the others need to be feeling enormous shame. It doesn't bring credit on the Australian people."

Last updated: 11:17am, August 7 2008