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Media release

2 May 2008

Deportation of Evan Hannah from Fiji

The deportation of Evan Hannah, an Australian citizen and the publisher of The Fiji Times, from Fiji this morning is a reprehensible attack by the illegal Fiji Interim Government on human rights and freedom of speech.

Mr Hannah was removed from his house in Suva last night, and taken to Nadi, where Fiji authorities endeavoured to put him onto an Air Pacific flight to Australia.

Mr Hannah’s lawyers had promptly lodged an injunction against his deportation and, quite properly, Air Pacific refused to board him on its flight to Sydney, despite threats and intimidation from the Fiji regime.

In an extraordinary step, the regime then put Mr Hannah on a flight to Korea.

The Australian High Commission has made urgent representations at senior levels to the offices of the Fiji Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to express Australia’s outrage at the treatment of Mr Hannah, and to seek an explanation for his treatment.

It is unconscionable that the Fiji authorities did not provide any notification to the Australian High Commission and have still not provided any explanation for Hannah’s summary detention and expulsion.

Equally outrageous is the fact that the Fiji regime, despite repeated requests, did not allow appropriate consular access to Mr Hannah.

Despite the best efforts of the Fijian officials to prevent it, an Australian High Commission officer was able to make very brief contact with Mr Hannah during his detention at the Nadi airport. Mr Hannah was able to reassure the officer that he was physically well.

Mr Hannah will be met in Korea by the Deputy Head of Mission from the Australian Embassy in Seoul, who will provide consular assistance to him and help facilitate his return to Australia.

The High Commission in Fiji will continue to provide support and assistance to Mr Hannah’s wife and family who remain in Fiji.

Today's events follow the summary deportation of Russell Hunter, CEO of The Fiji Sun, in late February.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is another blatant attack by the illegal Fiji Interim Government on freedom of speech.

It says a lot that the Fiji regime has acted in this way on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

This is yet another reprehensible act in a disturbing pattern of behaviour since the coup of December 2006 which has resulted in the severe erosion of fundamental human rights, freedom of the press, and the rule of law in Fiji.

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