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Probe into riot at Aussie facility 'stinks of a major cover-up': PNG police

SYDNEY -- Papua New Guinea police Thursday said an investigation into a riot at an Australian detention center on Manus Island that left an asylum-seeker dead “stinks of a major cover-up.”

Deputy Commissioner Simon Kauba said the findings of the probe, carried out on behalf of the Australian government, “only hampers our on-going investigations into the riot” which also left 69 people injured in February.

“Our investigations have been frustrated from day one with a complete lack of cooperation from all involved including (detention center security firm) G4S employees as well as the asylum-seekers themselves,” Kauba said in a statement.

“In fact the asylum-seekers as well as G4S officials and other service providers refused to give their statements to us and made it known that they preferred to talk only to Australian lawyers.”

Under Australia's tough refugee policy, asylum-seekers arriving by boat are sent to detention centers on PNG's Manus Island or Nauru, a remote Pacific neighbor, for processing and permanent resettlement.

The 107-page review released Monday found Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Barati was “brutally beaten” to death in an assault led by a Salvation Army worker.

It also found that PNG police had pushed over the fence and entered the compound before opening fire after G4S, which manages the center's security, had left during the riot.

But Kauba said an initial investigation by local police found its officers did not enter the camp before or during the riot, were not involved in the violence and did not injure any asylum-seekers.

Contradictions

Police believe Barati's death was the result of injuries caused by four detention center staff, two PNG locals and two foreigners, he added.

Kauba said PNG officers fired “warning shots into the air from outside the center” that “helped to quiet the situation.”

This contradicted the review's findings that police fired a number of shots into residential buildings in the center and that some bullets hit walls about “chest height.”

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