An Iranian asylum seeker who arrived at Australia’s shores by boat a decade ago will finally spend his first night as a free man.
Ned Kelly Emeralds has been holed up in immigration detention since fleeing Iran in 2013 in fear of persecution after he renounced his faith, an illegal act in his home country.
On Thursday, he became the 142nd long-term detainee to be released from immigration detention after winning a Federal Court challenge in the wake of the High Court’s recent landmark NZYQ decision.
The former metallurgical engineer legally changed his name to Ned Kelly Emeralds in a nod to the 19th century Australian outlaw.
Some of the other asylum seekers recently released by the Anthony Albanese government have convictions for serious criminal offences, including murder and child rape, while four refused to wear ankle monitoring devices.
The case of Mr Emeralds, who has never been sentenced for a crime or had a visa cancelled, was the first to be heard since the High Court recently ruled that indefinite detention was unlawful.
Federal Court Justice Geoffrey Kennett ruled that Mr Emeralds’ detention in Western Australia was unlawful because there was ‘no real prospect’ of his deportation ‘becoming practicable in the reasonably foreseeable future’.
Ned Kelly Emeralds is a free man, 10 years after he fled Iran and arrived in Australia
Justice Kennett described it as a ‘particularly disturbing case’ and ordered the immediate release of Mr Emeralds to enjoy his first taste of freedom in Australia after a decade of being transported from one detention centre to another.
‘Tonight I will sleep in my own bed,’ Mr Emeralds said in a statement released by the Human Rights Law Centre.
‘When I wake tomorrow, I will be able to decide where I go, what I do, who I see.
‘This is basic freedom, it is something you and I share. I haven’t had this for over ten years.
‘Over ten years ago, I came to Australia to seek protection from torture in my country, and instead I was tortured. I had no way to escape. I could not go home, and the government chose not to release me.
‘Nobody should be asked to choose between their life and their freedom. What happened to me should not have happened, and it should not happen to anyone else.’
Mr Emeralds was detained while his protection visa application was being processed, according to Human Rights Law Centre.
Ned Kelly Emeralds (pictured with supporter, songwriter Dawn Barrington) is enjoying his first taste of freedom in Australia
He’s been mute for almost a decade after he tried to take his own life while in detention on Christmas Island soon after arriving in 2013.
He has also experienced anorexia, engaged in a hunger strike and made other suicide attempts during his time in detention.
Mr Emeralds was agonisingly close to be released in 2021 when the Federal Court ruled that he be placed in ‘home detention’ at the home of close friends in Perth until the Commonwealth resolved his status.
He was so close that he was sitting at a bus stop outside Perth Immigration Detention Centre, waiting to be picked up before he was escorted back into the facility.
Then-immigration minister Karen Andrews had exercised her personal powers at the 11th hour to prevent him from being removed from Australia or housed with his friends.
A suicide attempt while in immigration detention robbed Ned Kelly Emeralds of his voice
Nauru also advised Australia it would not accept Mr Emeralds on the day the home detention order was to come into effect.
Mr Emeralds’ lawyer Sanmati Verma welcomed Thursday’s verdict.
‘Indefinite detention means subjecting people to these experiences day after day, year after year, without end in sight,’ she said.
‘People like Ned who are now walking free from their indefinite detention have survived these experiences.
‘They have had years of their lives taken from them, just because of their visa status. They deserve unconditional support to rebuild their lives.’