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Bail refused for one man as eight appear in court over ‘serious’ violence at Direct Provision centre

The incident involved a large group of Georgian men and a smaller number of Algerian men

Rabah Kouchih, second left, and Fouad Mekhazni, far right, pictured arriving at Killarney District Court on Tuesday escorted by uniformed gardaí© Don MacMonagle - NO BYLINE PLEASE

Fouad Mekhazni who was charged with violent disorder at The Killarney Hotel pictured leaving Killarney District Courthouse on Tuesdy© Don MacMonagle

Some of the men charged in relation to the incident© Don MacMonagle

Anne Lucey and Sinéad

Up to 20 men were involved during “a serious public order incident” at a direct provision centre in Killarney on New Year’s Day, a court heard today.

The incident involved a large group of Georgian men and a smaller number of Algerian men. Eight accused - four Algerians and four Georgian men appeared before the court, all charged with violent disorder.

Killarney District Court heard how instructions from the DPP were awaited. Seven were granted bail on condition they leave Killarney to reside at Garda-approved addresses in Meleek, Co Clare, and Clonakilty, Co Cork, in the case of three Algerians; while four Georgian men are to reside in counties Louth and Laois.

They are also to observe a curfew between 10pm and 8am at their designated address; surrender their passports; not to apply for new travel documentation; provide mobile phone numbers; stay out of Killarney save for court appearances; and to continue to reside at their addresses and to inform gardaí if changing address.

Some of the men charged in relation to the incident© Don MacMonagle

They had been living at the Hotel Killarney on the town’s Park Road, which is being used as a direct provision centre for asylum seekers.

Four or five Algerian men and 15 Georgians were involved in the incident, the court heard.

The State objected to bail in the case of one Algerian man alleged to have wielded a knife erratically in the course of the dispute, allegedly inflicting stab wounds on a number others.

A bus was scheduled to leave Killarney at 1pm today with several men on board to transfer them to another location, the court heard.

Fouad Mekhazni (27) residing at a room at Hotel Killarney and originally from Algeria was before the court charged with one count of violent disorder contrary to Section 15 of the Criminal Justice Public Order Act. He was also charged with producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury contrary to Section 11 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, on January 1 at Hotel Killarney.

The State was objecting to bail, Sergeant Kieran O’Connell, prosecuting said.

An Arabic interpreter was sworn in and Detective Garda Nigel Hennessy gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution at 7.31 pm at Killarney Garda Station on Monday January 2. Mr Mekhazni made no reply to the charges.

Outlining the objections to bail, Garda Hennessy said there was the nature and degree of seriousness of the alleged offences, which stemmed from “a serious public order incident” on the grounds of the hotel.

“A number of males received wounds consistent with being inflicted with a knife and which required hospital treatment," the garda said.

“Garda are of the belief if given bail Mr Mekhazni poses a threat to life and public safety of members of the community,” Det Garda Hennessy stated.

“Gardaí have no knowledge of his history in his home country of Algeria,” he also said.

Mekhazni had arrived into Ireland on December 26, 2021 without any documentation, and the Gardaí were trying to establish his identity and history through fingerprints with the help of Interpol.

They had established that he had travelled from Algeria to France and then to Dubliln - and he must have had documentation to travel to France, the garda said.

Solicitor Brendan Ahern, seeking bail, said his client was denying wielding a knife.

“It started with a small number of Algerians being set upon by a much larger group of Georgian men,” the solicitor put it to Detective Garda Hennessy. The matter was still being investigated, the garda replied.

“My client did not instigate this,” the solicitor continued. He was defending himself, the solicitor also said. Det Garda Hennessy alleged that Mr Mekhazni was “one of the main protagonists”.

The solicitor said his client resided with his wife and newborn baby in the hotel. He was applying for asylum claiming he was being threatened in his own country. For the past year he had lived in three different centres and had not been in trouble.

Garda Hennessy said he had travelled from Algeria to France and would have had to have documents to do so.

Fouad Mekhazni who was charged with violent disorder at The Killarney Hotel pictured leaving Killarney District Courthouse on Tuesdy© Don MacMonagle

Judge Waters refused bail and remanded Mr Mekhazni to appear via video link at Tralee District Court tomorrow.

A second Algerian man, Rabah Kouchih (31) of Room 2083 Hotel Killarney, was before the court charged with violent disorder. He had made no reply to the charge, Garda Hennessy said.

The State consented to bail on conditions including he surrendered his passport, stayed outside Killarney in a Garda-approved address in Clonakilty and observed a curfew.

Judge Waters remanded him and six co-accused, all with addresses in rooms at the hotel, on bail under conditions to appear at Killarney District Court on February 7 next for instructions from the DPP.

Also charged with violent disorder was Allal Bazizt (27).

The court heard that when charged earlier on Tuesday Mr Bazizt replied: “I’m not part of this group. I was trying to prevent the fighting.”

Mr Bazizt is to reside in Meelick Co Clare; Mounir Fadli (34) had made no reply to the charge and he also is to reside while on bail at Meelick.

A Georgian interpreter who travelled from Dublin was sworn in in the afternoon and four Georgian men residing in the hotel and also accused of violent disorder with the others were also granted bail on conditions.

None of the accused Georgian men spoke English, their solicitor Padraig O’Connell said.

Zurabi Muqtiashvili (36) had made no reply to the charge and is to reside at a B&B in Termonfeckin in Co Louth; Giorgi Basharadze (33) had replied “you saw everything on the camera” when charged, and he is to reside in Portarlington, Co Laois.

Levani Guliashvili (32) appeared in court with injuries to his left hand and his right arm in a sling. These were sustained during the incident, his solicitor Padriag O’Connell said. He is scheduled for surgery at Cork University Hospital on Wednesday morning. He has also been granted bail and is to reside after his treatment in Portarlington.

When formally charged, the court heard Mr Guliashvili replied: "The whole time there I was only trying to calm things down.”

Amiran Meparishvili (36) made no reply to the charge. He too was granted bail and is to reside in Co Laois.

Legal aid was granted in the case of all applications,

The garda investigation is continuing into the incident at the direct provision centre, and other arrests are likely, according to gardaí.

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman has said he will to take steps to protect the “safety and security of residents and staff” at Hotel Killarney in light of the violence there on New Year’s Day.

The Minister said he is aware of the situation and the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) has been in contact with hotel management and gardaí. He has spoken to acting Justice Minister Simon Harris following the incident which is now before the court.

"I want to ensure the safety and security of staff and resident at Hotel Killarney and will be taking measures in immediate terms,” he told RTÉ.

He also said that while the incident was serious, it is ‘isolated’ and must be looked at in terms of the wider context that Ireland is accommodating 73,000 seeking international protection.

In light of the New Year’s Day incident, some local representatives in Killarney have called on Minister O’Gorman to reduce the number of refugees living in the town. It is understood that some residents are to be moved from the hotel in the coming days.

The hotel is home to almost 400 men, women and children seeking international protection.

There are some Ukrainian refugees living in the hotel, but the majority are from other countries including Georgia and Algeria. It is understood that there are people of 13 different nationalities living in the hotel. Those seeking international protection and living in direct provision centres such as Hotel Killarney are seeking asylum but do not have refugee status like that which Ukrainian refugees have been granted.

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