The government of Nauru is taking issue with some of the reporting around what it calls a riot at the island‘s parliament more than three years ago.

Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of the Republic of Nauru, addresses the United Nations high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. Photo: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

A group called the Nauru 19, including a former president, is facing charges over the event, which they call an anti-government protest.

The government claims it was wrong to report that their trial has been delayed by the government‘s refusal to comply with a court order to pay the legal costs of the Nauru 19‘s lawyers.

Nauru is appealing this court order while the Nauru 19 are seeking a permanent stay on the grounds of Nauru not complying with the order and because of the time since the alleged offences occurred.

The Nauru Justice Department also said the court‘s directions were to it, not the government as had been reported.

However, in a statement on 3 July, the Nauru government information office said:

“The Government will appeal the ruling of the Nauru Supreme Court that recent legislation is unconstitutional, and that they must pay huge legal fees for a group of 19 defendants charged over the 2015 riots… Justice Minister David Adeang said the ruling was surprising, [and]… means that we must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide expensive international lawyers to defendants charged with criminal acts. This is not only unprecedented but excessive.”

A crowd outside Nauru‘s parliament following the protest. Photo: supplied/ Shane Bazzi

The Nauru government was pre-occupied with the Nauru 19 during a parliamentary sitting last week.

Mr Adeang railed about the impact the payment to the lawyers would have on the lives of ordinary Nauruans.

He promised that the Nauru 19 would be locked up and the government would then be seeking reparations from them.

But he said the government had to first deal with Justice Geoffrey Muecke, the Adelaide judge the government appointed to hear the case.

Mr Adeang spoke of the foreign white influence, using the words “white ears,” a highly derisive Nauruan term.

In 2014, the Nauru government deported the resident magistrate, Peter Law, and cancelled the visa for the chief justice, Geoffrey Eames, both of whom are Australians.