PNG yet to interview suspects in asylum seeker murder, five months on

Papua New Guinea police are yet to interview any suspects over the murder of Reza Barati in the offshore processing centre on Manus Island, more than five months after his death.

A PNG police spokesman, Dominic Kakas, told Fairfax Media that the investigation was underway and that it was an ”ongoing case”.

Mr Kakas said no one had been charged, or interviewed, over the murder of the 23-year-old asylum seeker. ”It’s got to be soon,” he said.

His comment came as tensions rose between security staff and detainees in the Manus Island detention centre on Monday night, resulting in two asylum seekers being confined by Wilson security staff. It is believed the men were taken away from their compound by security after they became aggressive, complaining about their treatment on the island.

Fairfax Media understands the two asylum seekers have not since returned to their compound.

Wilson security would not answer questions about the incident, referring inquiries to Transfield. A spokesman for Transfield said: ”Suggest you check again with the Minister’s office – all replies r/e [sic] this will have to come from them.”

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office confirmed the men had been removed and had been relocated within the centre.

”The minister has been advised two men became abusive and aggressive and were moved in accordance with operational policy within the centre,” a spokeswoman said. ”The mood in the centre is reported as being calm. This is another exaggerated claim.”

On Monday, Mr Morrison refused to comment on the progress of the Barati murder investigation, telling reporters in Canberra: ”I have no further information to provide you on that than what is currently publicly available and as I have provided previously.”

Yet despite the PNG police’s inaction on interviewing suspects, the Robert Cornall report into the incident found a Salvation Army worker led the attack that ultimately resulted in the Iranian asylum seeker’s death*.

In May, progress was being made with the investigation when PNG police asked security firm G4S for a full list of employees on Manus Island in mid-February, as well as photos of them.

At the same time Mr Kakas said one of the four chief suspects in the killing of Mr Barati had fled Manus Island and his whereabouts were unknown.

Since the brutal violence in February, not one asylum seeker has been taken to Manus Island, it was revealed during the Senate-run Manus inquiry last week.

Mr Morrison has also remained quiet on the location of the boat carrying 153 asylum seekers that have been intercepted by Australian Customs.

”These matters are currently before the High Court,” he said during question time on Tuesday. ”The government has made some statements to the High Court about these matters.”

The High Court case will resume on Friday.

Correction: An earlier version wrongly said the government report found a Salvation Army worker was responsible for the final blow to Reza Barati’s skull with a rock.

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