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Northbridge death charge upgraded
Northbridge death: Irishman Thomas Keaney. Picture: Facebook

A man accused of the one-punch assault of Irishman Thomas Keaney is facing an upgraded charge over his death, but his lawyer has told a Perth court he intends to fight the allegation and argue he acted in self-defence.

In Perth Magistrate's Court yesterday, police upgraded a grievous bodily harm charge against Girrawheen man Abbas Yahya Al Jrood to unlawful assault causing the death of Mr Keaney.

Mr Keaney, 23, died from a brain injury last month after he was allegedly assaulted outside a Northbridge kebab shop on December 17.

Police allege he was punched to the side of the head, causing him to fall and hit his head on the road.

The court was told there was a "loud crack" as Mr Keaney's head hit the ground.

Though Mr Keaney suffered a fractured skull, he was initially able to speak to his worried family in Ireland.

But his condition deteriorated on Christmas Eve.

His parents, Ann and Tom, rushed to Perth to be by their son's bedside - where his friends had sat vigil - before making the heartbreaking decision to switch off his life support system. His family later revealed they had donated his organs so part of him could live on in the country he loved.

Mr and Mrs Keaney were in court yesterday, though it is understood they are expected to return to Ireland soon.

Mr Al Jrood's lawyer Ken Bates said his 22-year-old client would argue he had been acting in self-defence and claimed he had pushed Mr Keaney, not punched as police alleged. He said Mr Al Jrood had co-operated with police and claimed Mr Keaney, who was standing behind a woman, had been saying "let's go, let's go".

He pushed Mr Keaney after seeing him reach into the woman's handbag and, working in the security industry, Mr Al Jrood was worried there might have been pepper spray or a weapon, Mr Bates told the court.

He applied for bail for Mr Al Jrood, who came to Australia from Iraq as a 4½-year-old with his mother and sisters, saying he had no previous convictions.

Mr Bates said Mr Al Jrood supported his family financially, cared for his mother and had strong family ties in Australia.

He said it would probably be nine to 12 months before Mr Al Jrood could stand trial and he was willing to abide by strict bail conditions.

Police opposed bail, arguing Mr Al Jrood was a flight risk and there was a strong prosecution case - which included CCTV footage and video footage from a taxi.

Mr Al Jrood was granted bail to reappear in court in April.