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Afghans see Irish charges dropped
19. June 2006, 13:40

BBC News - Irish prosecutors have dropped charges against 32 Afghan asylum seekers who held a week-long hunger strike in a Dublin cathedral.

A total of 34 men had been charged over occupying St Patrick's Cathedral. A judge issued arrest warrants for two as they failed to show in court on Monday.

The asylum seekers, who had vowed to die rather than return to Afghanistan, were arrested on 20 May.

Lawyers for the public prosecution gave no reason for dropping the charges.

Lengthy process

Police had broken up the protest without violence despite threats from some of the asylum seekers to tie ropes around their necks and jump from the organ loft.

The men were charged with breaking the Irish Republic's False Entry and Occupation Act.

But lawyers said in the Kilmainham District Court that the state had decided not to pursue charges.

Arrest warrants were issued against Saleem Aseer, 31, and Muhammad Husseini, 25, for non-appearance.

One of the 32, Samander Khan, told Associated Press news agency outside court: "We do apologise for any inconvenience to anyone we caused. But we don't regret. We are quite happy."

During the protest, the Irish government refused to negotiate over the men's asylum claims.

It said it would not concede to their demands on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent and would be unfair to those who sought to win refugee status through proper legal channels.

The men face a lengthy asylum appeals process.

EU law says asylum seekers should claim asylum in the first country they enter.

The Irish justice department says many of those arrested could face deportation to their EU entry country.

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