Refugee activists' charges dismissed

April 15, 2016
Refugee activists unfurl a banner demanding the closure of the Manus Island immigration detention centre.

Refugee activists Karoline Morwitzer and Emily Connors, who allegedly interrupted the Australian Open tennis tournament during last year's men's singles final by unfurling a banner demanding the closure of the Manus Island immigration detention centre, have had all charges dismissed.

In the middle of the second set of the final, protesters draped the banner over the court wall. The protest was filmed by television cameras and broadcast around the world.

The banner read “Australia Open for refugees” with the hashtag #shutdownmanus. Morwitzer and Connors, who jumped on court, were arrested, and another four people — wearing handmade “Australia Open for Refugees” shirts — were evicted from the match.

The group behind the protest said in a statement: “We have created this international media spectacle today to expose the torture, abuse, and horrific conditions that are being perpetrated on Manus Island.

“We will not be silent. We are drawing a line with this issue. If we allow this to happen, there is no end to what this government is capable of.”The protest garnered widespread media coverage, and inspired a similar protest at the Cricket World Cup later in the year.

Morwitzer and Connors faced court in Melbourne on April 7, with police alleging they entered a “sporting competition space” to which they were barred and disrupted proceedings without a “reasonable excuse”.

The pair could have faced heavy fines, but were both handed an unconditional dismissal and avoided a conviction or fine.

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