Passengers told route was safe: court

seven.com.au
By Johanna Leggatt
17 May 2005

An Iraqi man behind a disastrous people smuggling attempt that ended in the drowning of 353 asylum seekers charged up to $US1,000 ($A1,300) for a seat on the boat and told passengers the route was safe, a court has heard.

Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 37, has pleaded not guilty in the Supreme Court in Brisbane to one charge of people smuggling over the ill-fated journey of the SIEV-X, which capsized off Indonesia in October 2001, killing all but 45 people.

Daoed, an Iraqi goldsmith, has also pleaded not guilty to aiding the illegal importation of 147 people to Australia in August 2001 on another vessel, the Yambuk.

The prosecution does not allege that Daoed is responsible for the deaths of the asylum seekers; only that he played a key role in organising the smuggling attempt.

Crown Prosecutor Glen Rice told the court in his opening address that Daoed was acting as a key organiser for well-known Indonesian smuggling agent, Abu Quassey.

Quassey was convicted by an Egyptian court in December 2003 of death through negligence and is serving a seven year sentence.

Mr Rice said Daoed and another man, "Mathem", acted as Quassey's "trusted assistants" and helped negotiate terms and prices for the trip from Sumatra to Christmas Island.

"They would promote (Quassey's) qualities as a smuggler and say he was a 'good smuggler with good facilities'," Mr Rice told the court.

"He (Quassey) was portrayed as 'one of the best and one of the cheapest and so on'."

The court was told that some asylum seekers refused to board the ship when they saw it and others jumped off the crowded vessel and onto a fishing boat partway through the journey.

Daoed maintains that he was not acting as a people smuggler but had other roles including being Quassey's interpreter.

Three of the men who lost relatives in the voyage watched emotionless from the back of the court room.

The trial continues.

2005 AAP

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