Sumatra coast cop 'arranged SIEV-X'

By Kevin Meade
19 May 2005

AN Indonesian coastguard chief and armed police helped organise the ill-fated voyage of the SIEV-X, the boat that claimed the lives of 353 asylum-seekers when it sank on its way to Australia, a court heard yesterday.

Iraqi refugee Karim Al-Saaedy, a survivor of the tragedy, told the Brisbane Supreme Court he was introduced to the chief of the Sumatra coastguard by Abu Quassey, the convicted Egyptian people smuggler who was the principal organiser of the voyage.

Mr Al-Saaedy also said armed Indonesian police marshalled more than 400 asylum-seekers on to buses that took them from a hotel on the Sumatran coast to the SIEV-X embarkation point. Another witness, Iraqi survivor Sadeq Al Abodie, said he saw armed Indonesians in uniform on the beach as passengers boarded the vessel.

The survivors were giving evidence in the trial of Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 38, the Iragi refugee charged with people-smuggling on the SIEV-X voyage.

The former Baghdad goldsmith has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assisting Quassey in an attempt to bring illegal immigrants to Australia aboard the SIEV-X in October 2001.

He has also pleaded not guilty to helping Quassey bring illegal immigrants to Australia on the Yambuck, a boat that successfully carried 147 asylum-seekers to Christmas Island in August 2001.

Mr Al-Saaedy, who now lives in Finland, said he travelled to Indonesia from Iran with his son in 2001 after fleeing Iraq. In Jakarta he phoned Quassey, who put him in touch with Mr Daoed and another Iraqi, named Maitham.

At a meeting with Mr Daoed and Mr Maitham, he agreed to pay $US1000 for the voyage to Australia.

Mr Al-Saaedy said that after waiting for several weeks, with no word of when the boat would leave, he joined a deputation of four asylum-seekers who met Quassey at a Jakarta hotel.

The four represented about 140 asylum-seekers who had paid for the voyage and were anxious to know when it would begin.

Quassey ordered breakfast and drinks for the deputation, Mr Al-Saaedy said. ``(He) introduced us to an officer who was in charge of the coast guard in Sumatra.''

He said Quassey also told them Indonesian police were assisting the people-smuggling operation.

Quassey assured them the boat was in good condition and was well equipped, with two engines and two pumps.

Mr Al-Saaedy said that when the asylum-seekers finally arrived at the hotel in Sumatra before boarding the boat, Mr Daoed collected their mobile phones, saying he was doing so ``for security reasons, so the other Indonesian police would not know about it''.

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