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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
Ellison Replies

by Marg Hutton
22 October 2005

Earlier this week I received a reply from Senator Ellison to a letter I wrote more than five months ago concerning the charges that convicted SIEVX people-smuggler Abu Quassey faced in Cairo in 2003 (see below for Ellison's reply).

Ellison's letter raises more questions than it answers and I will be corresponding with him again to seek clarification. In particular I will be asking:

  • Why wasn't Quassey charged with a homicide offence carrying a heavier penalty than the one he was charged with - causing death by negligence of more than 3 persons - the maximum penalty being only 5 years imprisonment?
  • Why was Quassey charged with aiding and abetting attempts to enter a foreign country without effective travel documents for all four boats that he is known to have organised - Donnybrook, Gelantipy, Yambuk and SIEVX? The fact that Egypt has charged and convicted him for all these voyages has effectively closed the door on Quassey ever appearing before an Australian court because of the double jeopardy rule.
  • On what basis can Ellison maintain that 'the Australian government will consider any options that may arise for extraditing Quassey in the future, should he leave Egypt'? Australia has no outstanding warrants for Quassey's arrest now that he has been convicted of organising all four voyages he is known to have been involved in, so it appears there is no way for him ever to be brought to Australia. The last line of Ellison's letter appears to be nothing more than a fob off.

It's worth noting that Quassey could have received a seven year sentence for the four charges of 'aiding and abetting attempts to enter a foreign country (namely Australia) without effective travel documents'. But he received only a two year sentence for this charge which was reduced on appeal to only three months. If he had been charged and convicted in Australia for offences against the Migration Act he would have faced a jail term of up to twenty years...

Senator The Hon. Christopher Ellison

Minister for Justice and Customs
Manager of Government Business in the Senate

05/3049, MC05/5603, MC05/10414

[date stamped 18 October 2005]

Ms Marg Hutton
[address deleted]

Dear Ms Hutton

Thank you for your letters of 13 May 2005 and 9 August 2005 regarding the case of Abu Quassey who was found guilty by an Egyptian court on 27th December 2003 of offences relating to people smuggling. I apologise for the delay in responding to your initial letter of 13 May 2005. I am pleased to provide the following information in response to the issues raised in your letter.

I understand that Abu Quassey was charged with two offences:

(a) aiding and abetting attempts to enter a foreign country (namely Australia) without effective travel documents, and

(b) causing death by negligence of more than 3 persons.

The offence of aiding and abetting attempts to enter a foreign country without effective travel documents attracts a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment. For the offence of causing death by negligence of more than 3 persons the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.

I understand that Abu Quassey was charged and sentenced for his involvement in people smuggling into Australia on four occasions including involvement with the vessels SIEV X, Yambuk, Donnybrook and Gelantipy.

As you are aware, Australia sought the extradition of Abu Quassey from Egypt in 2003. However, Egypt, like many countries, does not extradite its own nationals. The Australian government will consider any options that may arise for extraditing Quassey in the future, should he leave Egypt.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Ellison
Senator for Western Australia

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