Eight men have been charged in connection with a violent incident on New Year’s Day at a reception centre for asylum seekers in Co Kerry, which resulted in four people needing hospital treatment.
The men are all asylum seekers and were brought before Killarney District Court on Tuesday in relation to the incident at Hotel Killarney on January 1st, 2023.
All eight were charged with committing violent disorder by using or threatening to use unlawful violence at Hotel Killarney, contrary to contrary to Section 15 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.
The defendants – Fouad Mekhazni (27), Rabah Kouchih (31), Allal Bahzit (27) and Mounir Fadli (34), all from Algeria, and Zurabi Muqtiasvili (36), Levani Guliashvili (32), Giorgi Basharadze (33) and Amiran Meparishivili (36) from Georgia – were residents at Hotel Killarney on Park Road, Killarney, at the time of the incident.
Mr Mekhazni was also charged with a count of production of a knife, capable of inflicting serious injury, contrary to Section 11 of the Offensive Weapons and Firearms Act 1990.
The court heard evidence of arrest, charge and caution in relation to all eight men from Det Garda Nigel Hennessy, Det Garda Stephen Foley and Det Sgt Michael Quirke.
The court heard none of the Algerians made any reply to the charges, except Mr Bahzit who told Det Garda Foley: “I’m not part of this group, I was trying to prevent the fighting.”
The court also heard that of the Georgians, Mr Bashardze told Det Sgt Quirke “ye saw everything on the cameras”; while Mr Guliashvili said: “The whole time I was there, I was trying to calm things down”.
Sgt Kieran O’Connell said gardaí had no objection to bail for seven of the eight defendants once they were willing to abide by a number of conditions gardaí were seeking.
Defence solicitors, Brendan Ahern for the Algerian men and Padraig O’Connell for the Georgians, said they had canvassed the bail conditions with their clients, and they were agreeable to them.
Sgt O’Connell said the bail conditions included they reside at new addresses, keep a curfew at these new addresses between 10pm and 8am and sign on at their local Garda station three times a week.
The court heard Mr Kouchih was to live at asylum seeker accommodation at an address in Clonakilty, Co Cork while Mr Bahzit and Mr Fadli were to reside at an address at Meelick in Co Clare.
Meanwhile, Mr Muqtiasvili was to reside at an address at Termonfeckin, Co Louth; and Mr Guliashvili, Mr Basharadze and Mr Meparishivili were all to stay at an address in Portarlington, Co Laois.
Gardaí were also seeking that the defendants provide them with mobile phone numbers that they can be contacted on 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and that they not apply for any new travel documents.
The last condition that gardaí were seeking in relation to seven of the eight defendants was that they stay out of Killarney save for court appearances and appointments with their solicitors.
Judge David Waters remanded all seven men on bail to appear again at Killarney District Court on February 7th for the DPP’s directions and he granted all seven free legal aid on the charges.
Gardaí objected to bail for Mr Mekhazni, who also faced a charge of production of a knife, capable of inflicting serious injury.
Det Garda Hennessy said gardaí were objecting on the strength of the evidence against Mr Mekhazni and they would allege the incident involving some residents at the centre was captured on CCTV.
He said Mr Mekhazni was clearly identifiable on the CCTV as being involved in the incident and Mr Mekhazni had identified himself to gardaí on the CCTV as being involved in the fracas.
Mr Mekhazni’s solicitor, Mr Ahern, said his client would claim he was acting in self-defence and denied having a knife during the incident, but Det Garda Hennessy did not accept this.
Mr Mekhazni’s behaviour on the night was such that he could be seen on CCTV swinging out in an erratic manner which gardaí believed could only mean he was wielding a knife in the fracas, the court heard.
Det Garda Hennessy said gardaí had recovered a knife at the scene and sent it for forensic analysis. They were still awaiting the results but believed they would confirm a link to the accused.
He said gardaí were also concerned, given Mr Mekhazni’s behaviour on the night, that he would pose a threat and danger to the safety and welfare of the community if he was granted bail.
Mr Ahern said Mr Mekhazni would contend he was one of four to five Algerians who were set upon by a group of between 10 and 15 Georgians who were the aggressors in the incident.
Det Garda Hennessy said gardaí were satisfied Mr Mekhazni was the only party to the fracas who was armed with a knife, and that four people had to be treated for knife injuries.
Judge Waters said that in the circumstances, he believed it was not an appropriate case for bail and he remanded Mr Mekhazni in custody to appear at Tralee District Court on January 4th.