One of the two men accused of killing Iranian asylum seeker, Reza Barati, has escaped from custody on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea officials have said.
Joshua Kaluvia, a former Salvation Army worker accused of hitting 23-year-old Barati in the head with a piece of wood, is currently on trial, but escaped last Monday. He was due to appear in court this week.
His co-accused, a then G4S guard Louie Efi, allegedly dropped a large rock on Barati. The incident occurred during violent riots at the Australian-run regional processing and detention centre in February 2014.
PNG police spokesman, Dominic Kakas, confirmed to Guardian Australia authorities were now conducting a search for Kaluvia. A warrant has been issued for Kaluvia’s arrest to appear in court by 18 April, the ABC reported.
Manus province police commander David Yapu said Kuluvia escaped from “CS compound” shortly before noon on 28 March. However his absence wasn’t noticed until 4.30pm that day when all prisoners were returned to their cells.
Yapu also accused the CS officers of negligence for failing to notify his command until Monday, a full week after the escape.
“[Provincial police command] Manus was only made aware on Monday 4/4/16 when there was a call over by the national court judge, Justice Nicholas Kirriwon, to check the if [Kaluvia] was in court for his sentence,” Yapu told Guardian Australia.
“The judge was told that the accused had escaped from CS on 28/3/16 which frustrated the court. As the PPC on the ground I see that it is a clear negligent by the CS officers,” he said, noting police could have begun searching for Kuluvia a week ago.
Yapu said it was the fourth escape from the centre since November. No escapee has been caught.
“The case of Joshua Kaluvia is of a great public interest and justice must prevail and seen to be done for perpetrators to be punished with punitive sentences,” said Yapu.
The escape comes amid growing tensions inside the regional processing centre as authorities begin the process of separating refugees from asylum seekers with failed refugee assessments.
Last week detainees were informed those whose claims had been assessed and approved would be moved to another area before being resettled in Lae, the country’s second-largest city. Those without positive assessments were told they would have to willingly return to their home country or face deportation.
According to detainees, people inside Mike compound with positive determinations are slowly being moved to East Lorengau, but those with negative assessments will remain inside Oscar compound for the next couple of days.
The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, told ABC yesterday as he understood there were a number of people approved to go out to East Lorengau transit centre “and for whatever reason they’re refusing to go”.
“I think they [PNG authorities] want to see the people who have been processed and found to be owed protection for these people to go out to East Lorengau the transit centre before they migrate into the community,” he said.
Sources on the island have reported rising tension and distress among detainees in Mike compound who do not wish to be separated or moved to Lae. Others are urging their co-detainees to cooperate, fearful it will inflame the situation.
On Nauru, asylum seekers and refugees are in their 16th day of consecutive protests. The protests have sought to draw attention to the length of time detainees have remained in detention – more than 1,000 days for some people. Protesters accused centre employees of erecting fences across the road to stop refugees who currently live in the Nauruan community from joining the demonstration.