People smuggler cries at jail sentenceAge (Breaking news)
July 14, 2005 - 7:20PM
An Iraqi man cried after being sentenced to nine years' jail for his part in a disastrous expedition to Australia in which 353 asylum seekers drowned.
Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 37, was convicted in the Supreme Court in Brisbane last month of helping organise the voyage to Australia of the SIEV-X, which capsized near Indonesia in October, 2001.
He was found not guilty of helping to organise another boat, the Yambuck, which landed safely on Christmas Island in August, 2001, carrying 147 asylum seekers.
Daoed pleaded not guilty to both people smuggling charges.
Justice Philip McMurdo sentenced Daoed to nine years' jail with a non-parole period of four and a half years, with 785 days in custody declared time already served.
This means Daoed is eligible for parole in about two and a half years.
Daoed, wearing a dark suit, cried softly in the dock as Justice McMurdo recounted the cramped conditions of the SIEV-X.
"The vessel was so unsafe that you yourself decided against taking the journey," Justice McMurdo said.
"It was so cramped that once people got on they couldn't move."
Justice McMurdo said while there was no evidence Daoed had benefitted financially from the operation, he thought it most likely he did.
"You had a role that began with the promotion of the trip to potential passengers and ended with you helping them on board," he said.
During the three-week trial, the court was told Daoed was the "trusted assistant" of smuggling kingpin Abu Quassey in Indonesia and promoted his expertise.
Quassey is serving seven years in an Egyptian prison for his role in the affair.
Witnesses in the trial testified they were charged up to $A1,300 for a seat on the boat, although some refused to board when they saw the cramped conditions.
Some even implicated the Indonesian coastguard and police as being involved in the smuggling attempt.
Throughout the trial Daoed maintained he was merely helping to translate Quassey's Indonesian and find the asylum seekers accommodation.
But prosecutor Glen Rice said if Daoed's motivation had been truly humanitarian he would not have boarded the passengers on such a rickety boat.
"It's quite clear he knew of the risk involved in such trips," Mr Rice said.
Defence barrister Gary Long said his client was of good character who was working hard in prison to send small amounts of money home to his family in Jordan.
The trial was an emotional experience for many witnesses, some who lost their entire family in the SIEV-X tragedy.
At least two men had to be taken to hospital when they broke down after giving evidence.
None of the survivors nor the refugee advocates were in court for the sentencing.
Australian Democrats immigration spokesman Andrew Bartlett told reporters outside court there needed to be an independent inquiry into the disaster.
"Particularly when you consider there was evidence emerging within the trial of the involvement of the Indonesian military," he said.
© 2005 AAP