Smuggler ring was well known, witness says, before collapsing

By Marian Wilkinson
20 May 2005

A survivor of the SIEV X tragedy collapsed after being led from a court room in Brisbane where he had just begun giving evidence in a people smuggling case linked to the boat.

Mr Hadar Qeiaswand, an Iraqi refugee, had taken the stand minutes earlier, recalling how he had arrived in Indonesia with his wife and two children hoping to get to Australia. But shortly after he began to speak about his family, he broke down in tears and was unable to continue.

Soon after, he collapsed in the foyer of the Brisbane Supreme Court surrounded by other Iraqi refugees who had lost families on the SIEV X when it capsized on the way to Australia on October 19, 2001. Ambulance officers were called after he briefly came around, crying out in grief.

The man is the second witness who survived the SIEV X tragedy to break down while giving evidence. On Wednesday Karim Al-Saaedy, whose son was among the 353 people drowned when the boat capsized, broke down during his evidence and has not yet returned to the witness stand. Counsel for the prosecution, Glen Rice, told the court Mr Saaedy was in a Brisbane hospital being treated for diabetes.

Both witnesses are refugees who came to Brisbane from Finland to give evidence in the case against Khaleed Shanayf Daoed, who faces two charges of aiding people-smuggling ventures, including the SIEV X voyage. The ring leader of those ventures in Indonesia, the court heard, was Abu Quassey.

Daoed has pleaded not guilty to the charges and told Australian police he acted as an interpreter for fellow Iraqis. Daoed, an Iraqi refugee, was extradited from Sweden to the face the charges.

Before his emotional collapse yesterday, Mr Qeiaswand said he had fled from Iraq to Iran where he was given Abu Quassey's name, describing him as a people smuggler well known in Iran and elsewhere. Mr Qeiaswand telephoned Abu Quassey from Iran and asked him to get his family to Australia or any other country where they could find refuge.

Yesterday Daoed's counsel challenged claims by another witness, Raid Sharmookh, that the accused was "a middle man" between Abu Quassey and Iraqi refugees in Jakarta. Mr Sharmookh said Daoed took $US600 from him for a place on the boat and had been with him on the beach on the Indonesian coast shortly before he boarded.

Mr Sharmookh, 21, who now lives in Sydney, said the SIEV X was so crowded that when he sat on the top deck he could not even stretch out his legs. Some time after, the boat was badly battered by four-metre waves and the captain pulled to an island to shelter.

There, Mr Sharmookh said he decided to leave the SIEV X, taking 23 other passengers with him. They paid a fisherman $US100 to take them back to the mainland.

The case continues.


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