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Asylum seeker is released from 'indefinite detention'

A 35-year-old Algerian man was yesterday released from prison, where he had been "languishing for two months", after he made an application against the validity of his continued detention.

The man, who had been in Ireland since 2009, and has made an asylum application, was charged under the Immigration Act on November 25 last with failure to provide proper identification documents.

The High Court was told on Friday that the man did not have a current Algerian passport and that there were "insurmountable practical difficulties" associated with obtaining one.

In Algeria a fingerprint sample must be tendered before a passport can be issued. At present there is no Algerian embassy in Ireland.

On the first date he was brought before the District Court in custody he was remanded in custody on the basis that his identity was not known and had not been ascertained by the gardai.

The High Court was told on Friday that a friend of the man attended at the offices of a previous solicitor with a birth certificate and driver's licence and that copies of these documents had been conveyed to gardai.

The man was then remanded on several occasions before the District Court and on each occasion the reason for the remand had been that the gardai had not yet satisfied themselves of his identity.

The man then wrote to the offices of solicitor Cahir O'Higgins and requested representation. Mr O'Higgins visited him in Castlerea prison on January 15 last.

A District Court was told on Friday that the man wished to enter a guilty plea in respect of the single charge of failing to provide identification documents.

But the court refused to hear the guilty plea on the basis that the identity of the accused had not been established to the satisfaction of the gardai.

The court was informed that copies of a birth certificate and a driver's licence had been forwarded to the Garda Siochana last November.

The court was informed that the man did not have previous convictions, that the charge was minor, and that it was the only matter that had been holding him in custody on remand for two months.

His new solicitor reiterated a request for the court to hear a guilty plea. The judge refused on the basis that the man's identity was not known.

The court was informed that identity documents had been forwarded to the prosecuting garda and was urged to hear evidence from the man, to establish his identity, and from the gardai in respect of what efforts had been made to satisfy the gardai of the identity of the accused.

The District Judge refused to allow the accused to give evidence of his identity or to let the matter stand to the end to the list or to adjourn the case until 2pm on Friday so that the garda involved could make enquiries as to the issue of identity.

The garda who was present at the District Court on Friday stated that the onus was entirely on the accused to prove his identity and the court agreed with the garda on the issue.

The court was again urged to accept a guilty plea as this amounted to "indefinite detention". The judge refused to hear a guilty plea or to sentence the man in respect of the offence.

The man was remanded in custody to appear on January 27 next.

Yesterday, the State conceded to the man's application, which was made pursuant to Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution, and the man was unconditionally released.

Sunday Independent