In Senate Estimates on Monday night Greens Senator Christine Milne asked Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty a number of questions concerning SIEVX. (See here for a complete transcript of this exchange).
Milne asked Keelty:
Commissioner Keelty: you will recall that on 11 July 2002 you said you were unable to answer questions in relation to... what information the AFP held about the departure, seaworthiness and ultimate fate of the SIEV X, the manner in which the AFP came into possession of that information and the specific actions taken, because of the future legal proceedings that were in train at that time. Are there now any further proceedings in train in relation to the SIEV X people smugglers, now that Khaled Daoed has been convicted and sentenced this year in Brisbane for SIEV X people smuggling, and Abu Quassey has been sentenced in Egypt for accidental homicide on SIEV X, and people smuggling on all four vessels that he sent to Christmas Island? So can you indicate to me whether there are any further legal proceedings in train at this particular time?
Senator, it is my understanding that there are investigations into a third person and the role that that third person may have had in the SIEV X vessel.
Milne then asked the Commissioner if once these investigations were complete would he then be able to answer the outstanding questions asked of him in the CMI Committee in July 2002. He replied in the negative, claiming that it was 'an operational matter' which 'may lead to further investigation' and therefore he could not 'commit to a time when the matter will be disclosed'. He also said that AFP had 'nothing to hide' in relation to SIEVX and had 'not covered up anything'.
Although Keelty did not name the third man, it appears he is Maythem Kamil Radhia, an Iraqi refugee arrested in Indonesia in company with Khaleed Daoed in January 2002, less than three months after the sinking of SIEVX. (Other variations of Maythem's name include 'Mytam Kamirada', 'Miythem', 'Maitham' and 'Maysam'.) It was alleged at the time of his arrest that Maythem worked closely with Abu Quassey, the principal organiser of the SIEVX voyage (see also this article).
As SIEVX survivor Rami Akram told Ghassan Nakhoul in The Five Mysteries of SIEVX, broadcast on SBS Arabic Radio in August 2002:
All the people on the boat [SIEVX] had been dealing with Maysam and Khaled. They were the ones
who introduced us to Abu Quossey. They were the ones who had been promoting his trade.
They were in charge of all his business. He (Abu Quossey) had only to take out the boat. No
one knew Abu Quossey, the Egyptian. Only a few people did. The rest didnít. All the
dealings and money payments were to Maysam and Khaled.
There were also many references to Maythem's role in the SIEVX people smuggling enterprise in the trial of Khaleed Daoed. (See Sue Hoffman's notes - Maythem is referred to as 'MM'.)
Both Maythem and Khaleed Daoed were released from custody in Indonesia in early 2002 without being charged and were soon after resettled in other countries by the UNHCR. Daoed was sent to Sweden; Maythem's destination is unknown.
We have no problem with the AFP pursuing and prosecuting Maythem for his alleged involvement in organising the fatal SIEVX voyage. Indeed, we firmly believe that all parties connected with that operation should be brought to justice. However, we do have a number of questions about the AFP's sincerity and committment to its 'investigation' into this matter.
It is now more than four years since the SIEVX foundered and 353 people lost their lives. What has the AFP been doing during this time to bring Maythem before an Australian court? Does the agency even know which country he was resettled in? If not, has it checked with UNHCR to find out where he was sent? Has it issued a warrant for Maythem's arrest? If not, why not?
Back in Senate Estimates in May 2003, when Senator Collins questioned Commissioner Keelty about whether a provisional warrant had been issued for Maythem's arrest Keelty asked for the Senator's 'forbearance' in allowing him 'to keep the operational detail confidential'. When Collins asked the same question of Justice Minister, Senator Ellison he replied in a similar vein:
[W]e did not publicise our interest in Mr Daoed prior to his arrest. I really feel that to answer that question may well, one way or the other, prejudice any action that we might want to take.
Keelty's and Ellison's responses to Collins gave the impression that the arrest of Daoed by the AFP was at the initiative of Australia and that a warrant wasn't issued until the last minute in order to keep the operation secure. However, earlier this year we learnt that Daoed's arrest came about primarily as a result of an investigation by Swedish policeman, Ulf Johannson who, in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Arbetarbladet, claimed that:
It took a lot of persuading to explain [to the AFP] the importance of my investigation... The state prosecutor and I discussed prosecuting Daoed here in Sweden, but finally a Chief of Police in Australia understood the importance of the work and they were able to take over.
So Daoed was not arrested after a long-standing investigation by the AFP. Rather, it appears that he was served up to the Federal Police by a Swedish policeman who had to persuade the agency of Daoed's importance in regard to SIEVX!
We can only hope that the country where Maythem was resettled also has a cop as dedicated and persuasive as Sweden's Ulf Johansson who may be able to track down Maythem Kamil Radhia and convince our Federal police to arrest him. Given the AFP's slow rate of progress in locating Maythem this would appear to be the only way that he will ever face charges over SIEVX.
How long can Commissioner Keelty continue to shield himself and the AFP from scrutiny in regard to SIEVX and Australia's people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia by claiming that the law enforcement agency has an 'ongoing investigation' into the matter? If Maythem is found and arrested, will Keelty then find another shield in Maythem's brother who is also alleged to have had some involvement in organising the SIEVX voyage?
As Senator Ray said of Commissioner Keelty during the debate in Parliament on the day after Senator Faulkner's historic adjournment speeches concerning the disruption program:
If ever I have seen an evasive witness, it was him [Commissioner Keelty] at the estimates hearings and at the certain maritime incident inquiry. Why doesn't he front up and give straightforward evidence?
Despite Keelty's protestations to the contrary, by dragging his heels in locating and prosecuting all of the people involved in organising the SIEVX voyage and refusing to answer questions on the grounds of an 'ongoing investigation', the impression is given that Keelty and the AFP have something to hide concerning SIEVX.
[Editor's note: Updated on 5 November 2011 to reflect current spelling of Maythem's name - changed from 'Miythem' to 'Maythem'.]