Letter to the Editor
15 September 2003
Canberra Times (p.10)
AFP action against people-smuggler a bit late
THE MAN alleged to have sunk SIEV X and drowned 353 people, Abu Quassey (legal name Mootaz Mohammed Hasan), is now on trial in his native Egypt on a manslaughter charge.
The Australian Federal Police and its minister, Senator Chris Ellison, last week offered evidentiary assistance to Egypt - sworn statements taken by the AFP from SIEV X survivors living on temporary protection visas in Australia, and thus unable under the terms of these visas to attend the trial without government permission to leave Australia and return.
In 22 months since Quassey was arrested in Indonesia in November 2001, Ellison and the AFP never sought to bring him to Australia to face murder or manslaughter charges, though Indonesia's Justice Minister was ready to hand him over under any such serious charge.
Ellison's and the AFP's position was that they could not obtain Quassey's deportation or extradition, because people smuggling is not a criminal offence in Indonesia.
The AFP never issued any warrant for murder or manslaughter.
Now the AFP says it has evidence to assist in Egypt's prosecution.
What will this evidence, mediated through the organisation that did nothing to prosecute any manslaughter charge against Quassey during the 17 months that he was detained in Indonesia, be worth?
I trust the prosecution will not rely exclusively on the AFP's offered evidence, but will also seek representative testimony from among the 38 SIEV X survivors for whom the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found permanent refugee places in humane countries around the world.