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WA student murdered by Gaddafi marksman
WA student murdered by Gaddafi marksman

A Perth student has been murdered by soldiers loyal to dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime after returning home to Libya because he was worried about his family's welfare.

The death of the 27-year-old University of WA English language student Omar Swyeb in April has raised fears among the several hundred Libyans studying in WA. Many say they and their children will be imprisoned or killed when their visas expire and they are forced to return home.

An investigation by _The Weekend West _also uncovered claims that a small contingent of students loyal to Gaddafi were spies for the regime in Perth and were taking names and photographs of rebel sympathisers to add to a Libyan secret police blacklist, which earmarked dissidents for death or prison.

In the wake of the reports, the Greens will announce today that the party has moved in the Senate to have student visas for Libyans extended until the crisis in the war-torn country has been resolved.

On Curtin University campus yesterday, outside a small building set aside as a Muslim prayer room, many Libyan students said they were too afraid to be seen talking.

Libya fights on

One 26-year-old who did not want to be named, said his brother had telephoned and warned him not to go back to Libya, because secret police had arrived at the family home after footage was posted on YouTube of him in a Perth protest.

One man who wasn't afraid to speak out was Hamza Eldenferiq, Mr Swyeb's best friend. They were both from the rebel-held western city of Misrata and Mr Eldenferiq is convinced he would be killed in Libya simply because of where he grew up.

Struggling to hold back tears, he spoke about the death of his friend, who had been "like a brother".

Described as a happy young man who had enjoyed taking road trips around WA since arriving about a year ago, Mr Swyeb returned to his besieged home town of Misrata in March.

"He was always smiling, he had a sense of humour," Mr Eldenferiq, 26, said. "He was worried about his family, because they are in trouble; that is why he went back."

Bianca Panizza, director of UWA Centre for English Language Teaching, said staff had pleaded with the "very bright" student not to go.

But Mr Swyeb would not be deterred, dodging checkpoints by hitching a ride in Benghazi on a small boat smuggling guns into Misrata.

On April 24, he was among a group of rebels that clashed with soldiers invading the town.

"He was trying to push the soldiers to get out of Misrata because they were shooting civilians," Mr Eldenferiq said.

"One of the snipers shot him in the heart." Another friend, 41-year-old Curtin student Jalal Srar, said Mr Swyeb's death proved how dangerous it was for Libyans to return home.

His student visa about to expire, he feared what would happen to his wife and three young children when they returned to Libya.

Other students were growing desperate because the study allowance from the Libyan Government they relied on had been cut off. Murdoch student, Wesa, 56, said it had been three months since he had received any money.

Every Libyan interviewed independently said that even in WA, they were not beyond the reach of the Gaddafi regime. Mr Eldenferiq had been warned by students who had defected from the pro-Gaddafi faction that there were spies working for the regime in Perth.

WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said his party's motion came after the precedent set by former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke, who in 1989 granted about 19,000 Chinese nationals visas to stay in Australia after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Up for a vote on July 4, the motion proposes students from war-torn countries, including Libya, Syria and Bahrain, be allowed to stay in Australia until it is safe to return to their homes and that work restrictions be lifted in cases of financial hardship.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said any of the 1446 Libyan students in Australia who believed it was unsafe to return home - where rebels claim the conflict has now claimed more than 10,000 lives since it began in February - could make an application for a further visa in Australia.

The West Australian

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