$1300 for a seat on death boat

By Johanna Leggatt, Marian Wilkinson
May 18, 2005

Passengers on the SIEV-X, which capsized killing 353 asylum seekers, were told the route was safe.

An Iraqi man behind a people-smuggling attempt that ended in the drowning of 353 asylum seekers charged up to $US1000 ($A1300) for a seat on the boat and told passengers the route was safe, a court has been told.

Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 37, has pleaded not guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court 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 who was extradited from Sweden, 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 Prosector Glen Rice told the court 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 7-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 during the journey.

One of the survivors of the voyage, Sadeq Razaq al-Abodie,told the court that when he first saw the ship it was so crowded with passengers that it sat low in the water.

"Inside the boat, it was hard for people to breathe", he said.

The first of 20 prosecution witnesses, Mr Abodie said he was approached by Daoed and another Iraqi at a hotel near Jakarta who told him about a boat being organised by Quassey that would go to Australia.

Mr Abodie said Daoed had told him and other Iraqis the price would be between $US800 and $US1000. He said he had handed over a deposit and that Daoed and his friend had ticked off names, organised transport and met the passengers at cheap hotels.

"I paid him $400 for myself and my wife, $200 for each person", Mr Abodie said. "They don't charge for children".

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

The trial continues.

- with AAP

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