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How many of the 1500 asylum seeker lives lost at sea since 2001 could have been saved?
Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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MEDIA

GOVERNMENT
Quassey For Egypt

by Marg Hutton
16 April 2003

According to an article on news.com.au, Abu Quassey - the organiser of the SIEVX voyage on which 353 people, mostly women and children, lost their lives - will be flown to Egypt later this week, nearly four months after his release from Cipinang prison for minor passport offences.

Indonesia has been holding Quassey in Immigration detention all this time, yet it seems that Australian Justice Minister Ellison and the AFP have made little use of this window of opportunity.

We will know by the end of the week just how genuine Ellison and Keelty were in their efforts to bring Quassey to trial in Australia for what Senator Bartlett has called the 'mass killings' on SIEVX. If Quassey gets home free to Egypt, it will be apparent that Ellison's vow to pursue him 'no matter where he goes or how long he lives' was just empty rhetoric.

Australia's seeming reluctance to actively pursue Quassey further supports the theory that Australian authorities may have been involved at some level in the sinking of SIEVX. The AFP's track record suggests that it is happy to go slow in extraditing and bringing to trial in Australia people smugglers whose operations have been deeply penetrated by disruption agents.

Over the past two years Australia has helped to organise sophisticated sting operations to disrupt and dismantle people smuggling syndicates; the most well known of these is the one that netted Hasan Ayoub in Cambodia in July 2001.

Like Abu Quassey, Hasan Ayoub had been allegedly operating the Christmas Island run in early 2001. He then attempted to open up a new people smuggling route from Cambodia. The AFP notes in its last annual report that the unnamed Ayoub had been a target of its people smuggling team. (p.52)

The sting operation that bagged Ayoub in Cambodia involved liaison with Indonesian and Cambodian officials and infiltration of Ayoub's syndicate by disruption agents who actually helped to load the boat and send it out to sea with more than 240 asylum seekers during the typhoon season.

Australian Ambassador to Cambodia Louise Hand said at the time of this perilous enterprise, 'They were crammed in like passengers on a slave ship... They faced serious danger.'

Ayoub is currently languishing in jail in Thailand where he has been since December 2001. A Thai court ruled in August last year that he be extradited to Australia to be tried for people smuggling offences. Nine months later Ayoub is still imprisoned in Thailand.

In the meantime, another people smuggler, Al Jenabi, who allegedly organised several boats to Ashmore Reef, has been extradited from Thailand to Darwin, although he was apprehended and brought to court more than four months after Ayoub. So Australian authorities can work quickly when they want to.

Is Quassey still outside Australia because SIEVX was also a victim of an elaborate sting operation?

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