Monday, 11 December 2017  
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
The Patsy?

by Marg Hutton
7 November 2003

Earlier today, Justice Minister Ellison announced that Khaleed Daoed, one of the alleged organisers of the fatal SIEVX voyage, had been extradited to Australia from Sweden this morning (see also this doorstop interview).

BACKGROUND

On 24 April this year, Abu Quassey, the alleged head of the people smuggling syndicate that organised the SIEVX voyage, was deported to Egypt from Indonesia without the knowledge of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) or Justice Minister. (see: L&C 26 May 2003, p. 118, L&C 27 May 2003, p.326)

This must have been a low point for Commissioner Keelty and Minister Ellison who for five months had been under intense public pressure to ensure that Quassey was held accountable for his part in the deaths of the 353 asylum seekers who drowned in Australia's border protection zone when SIEVX foundered on 19 October 2001. The level of public scrutiny had been such that a Senate motion had been passed in December 2002 calling for 'the Australian and Indonesian Governments to undertake all actions necessary'... to ensure that Quassey was 'immediately brought to justice' on his release from an Indonesian prison after serving a six month sentence for passport related offences. Ellison was so determined to be seen as actively seeking Quassey's extradition that he virtually vowed in an article by Kirsten Lawson in the Canberra Times in December to pursue the infamous smuggler to the ends of the earth:

'We will chase him and there will be no relenting in that pursuit, no matter where he goes or how long he lives... He is one of the No 1, if not the No 1, fugitives that Australia is chasing.'

One can only guess how humiliating it must have been for Ellison and Keelty when they discovered that Quassey had been put on a plane to Egypt without Indonesian authorities informing Australia of his impending departure. Ellison and Keelty had been tasked by the Senate to ensure that everything that could possibly be done to bring Abu Quassey to Australia to face charges in relation to SIEVX was done and instead the smuggler flew the coop without their knowledge!

With Senate Estimates less than a month away Keelty and Ellison were undoubtedly aware that they would be called on by the Senators to explain how Quassey had slipped their net.

Enter Khaleed Daoed...

A NEW QUEST BEGINS

It appears from an examination of the public record that Australian authorities had little if any interest in Khaleed Daoed until after Abu Quassey had been deported to Egypt.

Daoed was arrested by Indonesian authorities on 11 January 2002, and released soon after. At the time of his arrest an AAP article described him as a 'low-level player... in Jakarta's people smuggling network' (see also this article). According to Ghassan Nakhoul, Daoed was released 'on the strength of a letter the police had received from the UNHCR in Jakarta' (see Nakhoul p.12.)

Daoed had been granted refugee status by the UNHCR in Indonesia prior to the sinking of SIEVX. According to sources in Sweden, on his release from prison in Indonesia, Daoed was resettled in Sweden in March 2002 where he lived in Stockholm for eleven months. He moved to Sandviken in February 2003.

Given this background, it is curious that the AFP claimed not to know of Khaleed Daoed (or indeed any of Quassey's alleged syndicate) in August 2002 when Marian Wilkinson put a series of questions to Federal Agent Leigh Dixon concerning SIEVX and Abu Quassey's people smuggling syndicate.

Wilkinson asked Dixon:

'We understand two members of the Mandanean community were working as operates [sic] for Abu Quassey in gathering passengers for the SIEV X...'

Dixon replied:

'The AFP has no knowledge of who worked with/for Abu Quassey...'

This is a very telling statement for it suggests that the AFP investigation into SIEVX up until that time had been cursory to say the least.

It was not until Ghassan Nakhoul's Walkley award winning radio program on the SIEVX tragedy, 'The Five Mysteries of SIEVX', was broadcast on SBS Arabic radio in late August 2002, that details of Khaleed Daoed's alleged connection to Quassey's syndicate became well known in Australia.

Even if we suspend disbelief and assume that the first the AFP or Justice Minister knew of Daoed was in late August 2002 after 'Five Mysteries' went to air, why then did it take another nine months before warrants were sworn for Daoed's arrest - by which time he had been resettled in another country as a refugee?

Senator Jacinta Collins made this point in a question to Senator Ellison in May:

'[W]hat I am asking is, with regard to [Daoed's] arrest in Indonesia in January 2002... what has changed in relation to the prosecution of this man that he was released in January 2002 or thereabouts but now we can succeed with a provisional arrest warrant in relation to such crimes?'

And why is it that the AFP did not begin intensively interviewing SIEVX survivors until then too?

It appears that very little was done by Australian authorities in regard to compiling a brief of evidence concerning the SIEVX disaster until May 2003 - a few weeks after Abu Quassey had been deported from Indonesia to Egypt.

It appears that when it comes to SIEVX, the AFP only acts under public pressure.

The record speaks for itself:

19 October 2001 - The Indonesian fishing boat that would later become known as SIEVX sinks approximately 60 nautical miles south of the Sunda Strait, in the Australian border protection surveillance zone, with the loss of 353 lives.

3 June 2002 - 3 warrants sworn for Abu Quassey for people smuggling offences (none for SIEVX).

11 July 2002 - Commissioner Keelty appears as a witness at the CMI Committee and refuses to answer numerous questions related to SIEVX because of the possible negative consequences to future legal proceedings and investigations

31 July 2002 - Commissioner Keelty informs Senate that AFP have interviewed a total of five survivors from the SIEVX tragedy to date. We would later hear that these interviews were conducted in July 2002 (see Q113).

4 December 2002 - Democrats Leader Senator Andrew Bartlett asks Senator Ellison what is being done to bring Abu Quassey to justice for his part in the SIEVX tragedy?

6 December 2002 - 4th warrant sworn for Abu Quassey - signficantly, this is the first related to SIEVX

11 December 2002 - Senate passes a motion calling on the governments of Australia and Indonesia 'to undertake all actions necessary prior to 1 January 2003 to ensure that Abu Quessai is immediately brought to justice.'

1 January 2003 - Quassey released from Jakarta's Cipinang prison and placed in Immigration Detention

9 January 2003 - Commissioner Keelty informs Senate that AFP have conducted interviews with 6 survivors to date (see Q56b).

24 April 2003 - Abu Quassey deported from Indonesia to Egypt without Australia's knowledge after spending four months in Immigration Detention

16 May 2003 - First warrant issued for Khaleed Daoed re SIEVX

22 May 2003 - Khaleed Daoed arrested in Sweden

27 May 2003 - Keelty informs Senate that a total of 26 survivors have now been interviewed. Ghassan Nakhoul reveals in his SBS Arabic radio program that most of these interviews had taken place very recently - ie in the last few weeks.

3-6 June 2003 - AFP conducts interviews in Indonesia with 21 Mandaeans who disembarked from SIEVX prior to its sinking and who have been in Indonesia since the sinking.

6 June 2003 - 2nd warrant issued for Daoed for Yambuk

Late July 2003 - AFP reveals to Senate that a total of 48 interviews have been conducted with survivors and others connected to the SIEVX voyage (see Q137).

With the extradition of Daoed to Australia it appears that there will be some kind of SIEVX trial here - though it is anyone's guess when this may actually occur. However, a people-smuggling trial can in no way be considered a substitute for a full powers independent judicial inquiry into the sinking of SIEVX and the People Smuggling Disruption Program in Indonesia.

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