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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6581


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (11:49): I rise to highlight a legal case in Peru which is causing considerable distress to six young Australians: Harrison Geier, originally from Wagga Wagga, Andrew Pilat, Jessica Vo, Sam Smith and brothers, Hugh and Tom Hanlon, as well as their families and friends. In 2012 the doorman at the apartments where these young Australians were staying in Peru died, apparently as a result of a fall from an upper storey. The six were interviewed by Peruvian police, who at the time accepted their innocence. The verdict was suicide. The Australians were allowed to leave Peru and are now back in Australia.

I would like to read from a letter I received from Phillip Geier, on behalf of his son Harrison, dated 29 November 2012. He stated: 'As a parent, I'm sure that, once you have read the outline of events, you will feel the same degree of disbelief and worry that this can happen to educated Australian citizens doing nothing more than checking into an apartment. As you can imagine, to be falsely accused of murder, let alone in a country with very different judicial standards, is very distressing for six lovely young Australians and their families. This awful situation is the result of the death of a doorman, Mr Lino Rodriguez Vilchez, in Miraflores, Lima, Peru, on 19 January 2012. The six young Australians had checked into their apartment and Mr Vilchez was the doorman who took their luggage to the lift. He was also at the front door when the six left to get groceries. He was not at the front door when they returned. This is the extent of their involvement with the deceased.'

After agitation by the deceased's family and the local media, another police investigation was opened. This alleged that the Australians were implicated in the doorman's death. The Peruvian courts have overturned the original verdict and have ordered the six Australians to return to Peru to give statements and to face trial. The young Australians and their families are understandably concerned that the decision to open a trial does not appear to take account of forensic and other evidence which, they believe, exonerates them.

The coalition welcomes the advice and assistance of the government, including our professional consular officials. We urge the Australian government to give the matter the highest priority. The coalition will continue to monitor this case very closely and hopes that, with the assistance of the government, the matter will be satisfactorily resolved, with the Australians' names cleared and no need for them to return to Peru to face trial. I spoke this morning to Rosemary Pilat, the mother of Andrew Pilat, one of the six young Australians who have unfortunately been caught up in this dreadful situation. Obviously she is very distraught about the situation, as are the families of the other five young people. I ask the government to do everything it can to see that this situation is resolved satisfactorily. It is a very worrying situation for these six young Australians, who obviously maintain their innocence. As you heard from that letter, Harrison Geier's father is also extremely worried and distraught. It is an alarming situation and I would impress upon the Commonwealth government of Australia to do everything it can to see that it is resolved satisfactorily.