An Iraqi surgeon held in Australia as an illegal immigrant said Friday he fled his homeland because he was not prepared to obey orders to cut off the ears and feet of draft-dodgers and petty criminals.
"I could not participate in these savage actions," Munjed Al Muderis, 28, from Baghdad, said the day after appearing in court on a charge related to a mass break-out at the Curtin detention center in Western Australia early this month.
He is one of 17 asylum-seekers who appeared in the Magistrate's Court in Broome, in the far north of the State, Thursday, charged with escaping lawful detention on June 9.
They have not yet pleaded to the charge, and will appear in court again next Thursday.
Al Muderis has been in the Curtin center for eight months while waiting for the Australian Government to process his application to be allowed to remain in Australia as a refugee.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that doctors in Iraq were often forced by the regime to cut off the ears or feet of draft-dodgers and petty criminals.
He said that if he did not comply with such instructions, he would have been subjected to severe punishment.
"Anyone who refused to do such surgery to innocent people, or people who escaped from military service - they sent him to jail, and he might die because of that," he said.
Al Muderis, who said he paid more than 6,000 Australian dollars (4,000 US) to make the long and hazardous journey to Australia, cast some light on the route taken by refugees from Iraq.
"Most who escaped from Iraq went initially to Iran, Turkey, Syria or Jordan, and from there they traveled by plane to Malaysia, before going on to Indonesia where they would meet a smuggler," he said.
"This smuggler sent them to another one, who smuggled us by vessel to Australia."
The breakout from the Curtin center coincided with other mass escapes from detention centers in Port Hedland, Western Australia and Woomera, South Australia.
The detainees complained about lengthy delays in processing their applications for refugee status.
Immigration Minister Philip Roddock has said repeatedly he will not allow illegal immigrants into the Australian community until they have been exhaustively vetted by authorities -- PERTH, Australia, (AFP)
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