People smuggler guilty but questions remain

Leanne Edmistone
Brisbane Courier Mail

YESTERDAY'S guilty verdict still left many unanswered questions for the survivors and victims' families of the asylum seeker vessel that capsized between Indonesia and Australia in 2001, killing more than 350 people.

A Brisbane Supreme Court jury deliberated for two days before finding Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 38, a former Iraqi goldsmith and father of four, guilty of assisting in the proposed illegal entry of people into Australia. He was not charged over the deaths of the refugees.

Daoed helped principal smuggler Abu Quassey recruit passengers for the unnamed 19.5m x 4m wooden fishing boat that would later be codenamed SIEV-X (suspected illegal entry vessel X). Daoed also took payments, gave instructions, and provided food and equipment for the journey which left Indonesia on October 19, 2001, carrying more than 400 mostly Iraqi refugees.

He also farewelled the passengers on the SIEV-X, praying for them and wishing them a safe journey.

About 20 people left the overcrowded boat and took refuge on an island, but 353 people drowned hours later when the engines and water pumps failed, and the boat capsized. Only 45 people were rescued by Indonesian fishing boats, after more than 20 hours in the water.

Daoed was acquitted of a second charge of assisting to bring people to Australia illegally, relating to the successful landing of 147 people on Christmas Island in August 2004 after sailing in the Yambuck from Indonesia.

He stood expressionless in the dock as first the not guilty, then guilty verdicts were read out by the five-man, seven-woman jury yesterday morning.

Sentencing proceedings were adjourned at defence barrister Gary Long's request, to allow a psychologist's report to be compiled on Daoed's circumstances. He faces a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment.

Abu Quassey was sentenced to seven years' jail by an Egyptian court in 2003, after being found guilty of manslaughter for organising the journey of the SIEV-X.

Outside court yesterday, WA Refugee Alliance co-ordinator Sue Hoffman said refugees who had lost their families had been "happy but not ecstatic" about the result.

"It doesn't bring their families back and their futures are still uncertain," Ms Hoffman said.

She had accompanied three Perth-based Iraqi men, who have been living in Australia on temporary protection visas for about five years, to Brisbane for the first week or so of the trial but the men had since returned home because they found it too painful.

In a statement read by Ms Hoffman yesterday, Mohammad Hashim Al-Ghazzi, who lost his wife and three children and another 10 members of their extended family, said: "The trial was very sad and hurt us deeply. We lost life, future, truth, dignity - everything gone. Nothing will bring back our family."

Ms Hoffman said a full inquiry into the SIEV-X disaster, the people smuggling trade and the plight facing refugees in Australia was needed but repeated requests had been ignored by the Federal Government.

She said alleged involvement by Indonesian authorities, and of two ships shining searchlights on survivors after the capsize, but then leaving the scene, also had to be investigated.


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