Up to 20 men were involved in “a serious public order incident” at a hotel in Killarney used as a temporary direct provision centre on Sunday evening, Killarney District Court was told on Tuesday.
The incident involved a large group of Georgian men and a smaller number of Algerian men. Eight accused – four Algerians and four Georgian men – appeared before the court all charged with violent disorder.
Killarney District Court heard instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions were awaited. Seven of the accused were granted bail on condition they leave Killarney to reside at Garda-approved addresses in Meelick, Co Clare, and Clonakilty, Co Cork, as well as addresses in Louth and Laois.
The State objected to bail in the case of an Algerian man alleged to have wielded a knife erratically in the course of the dispute, allegedly inflicting stab wounds on a number of others.
A bus was also scheduled to leave Killarney at 1pm on Tuesday with several men on board to transfer them to another location, the court heard.
Fouad Mekhazni (27), of Room 1094, Hotel Killarney, Park Road, and originally from Algeria, was before the court charged with one count of violent disorder contrary to Section 15 of the Criminal Justice Public Order Act.
He was also charged with producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury contrary to Section 11 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, on January 1st at Hotel Killarney.
The State was objecting to bail, Sergeant Kieran O’Connell said.
An Arabic interpreter was sworn in and Detective Garda Nigel Hennessy gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution at 7.31pm at Killarney Garda Station on Monday, January 2nd. Mr Mekhazni made no reply to the charges.
Outlining the objections to bail, Garda Hennessy said there was the nature and degree of seriousness of the offences, which stemmed from “a serious public order incident” on the grounds of Hotel Killarney on January 1 involving a group of males.
“A number of males received wounds consistent with being inflicted with a knife and which required hospital treatment," the Det Garda said.
There was also the strength of evidence captured on CCTV which clearly shows the accused involved in the incident and eyewitness accounts, he said.
'Threat to life'
“Gardaí are of the belief if given bail he poses a threat to life and public safety of members of the community,” Det Garda Hennessy said.
This was based on his behaviour during the violent incident, he added.
“Gardaí have no knowledge of his history in his home country of Algeria,” he also said.
Mr Mekhazni arrived in Ireland on December 26th, 2021, without any documentation and the gardaí were trying to establish his identity and history through fingerprints with the help of Interpol.
They had established he had travelled from Algeria to France and then to Dublin – and he must have had documentation to travel to France, the garda said.
Defence solicitor Brendan Ahern said his client denied wielding a knife.
“It started with a small number of Algerians being set upon by a much larger group of Georgian men,” the solicitor said.
“My client did not instigate this,” Mr Ahern added.
Det Garda Hennessy said Fouad Mekhazni was “one of the main protagonists” and his behaviour was out of control and erratic.
So far, gardaí believe all the injuries sustained were from one person with a knife. A knife was found at the scene and forensic evidence was awaited.
His client lived with his wife and newborn baby in the hotel, the solicitor said. He was applying for asylum claiming he was being threatened in his own country. For the past year, he had lived in three different centres and had not been in trouble.
Garda Hennessy said he had travelled from Algeria to France and had to have documents to do so.
"Four to five Algerian men and between 10 and 15 Georgian men" were involved in the incident, the court was told by the solicitor.
Judge Waters refused bail for Mr Mekhanzi and remanded him to appear via video link at Tralee District Court on Wednesday.
Violent disorder charges
A second Algerian man, Rabah Kouchih (31), of Room 2083, Hotel Killarney, was before the court charged with violent disorder. He made no reply to the charge, Garda Hennessy said.
The State consented to bail on conditions he surrender his passport, stay outside Killarney in a Garda-approved address in Clonakilty and observed a curfew.
Judge David Waters remanded him and six co-accused, all with addresses in rooms at Hotel Killarney, on bail under conditions to appear at Killarney District Court on February 7th for instructions from the DPP.
Also charged with violent disorder was Allal Bazizt (27).
“I’m not part of this group. I was trying to prevent the fighting,” he replied, when charged at Tralee Garda Station earlier on Tuesday, the court heard.
He is to reside in Meelick, Co Clare.
Another man, Mounir Fadli (34), made no reply to the charge and he also is to reside while on bail in Meelick.
A Georgian interpreter who travelled from Dublin was sworn in in the afternoon and four Georgian men residing in Hotel Killarney and also accused of violent disorder were also granted bail on conditions. None of the accused Georgian men spoke English, their solicitor Padraig O’Connell said.
Zurabi Muqtiashvili (36) had made no reply to the charge. He is to reside at a B&B in Termonfeckin, Co Louth.
Giorgi Basharadze (33) had replied “you saw everything on the camera” when charged. He is to reside in Portarlington, Co Laois.
Levani Guliashvili (32) appeared in court with injuries to his left hand and his right arm in a sling. These were sustained during the incident, his solicitor Padraig O’Connell said.
He is scheduled for surgery at Cork University Hospital on Wednesday morning. He said he was "trying to calm things down". He has also been granted bail and is to reside after his treatment in Portarlington, Co Laois.
Amiran Meparishvili (36) made no reply to the charge. He too was granted bail and is to reside in Co Laois.
Legal aid was granted in the cases of all applications.
The investigation is continuing into the incident and other arrests are likely, according to gardaí.