Iraqi sentenced to nine years for SIEV-X role

PM - Thursday, 14 July , 2005 18:34:29
Reporter: Ian Townsend

MARK COLVIN: A chapter in the so-called SIEV-X disaster closed this afternoon, when a Supreme Court judge in Brisbane sentenced an Iraqi man to nine years in prison for people smuggling.

Last month, a jury had found Khaleed Daoed guilty of helping to organise the ill-fated boat which sank on its way to Australia in 2001, and drowned 353 people.

But refugee advocates say the trial left many questions about the SIEV-X sinking unanswered, and there are renewed calls today for a full judicial inquiry.

Ian Townsend reports from Brisbane.

IAN TOWNSEND: In October 2001, more than 400 people who were seeking asylum in Australia were crammed onto a boat in Indonesia.

But the overcrowded boat, later dubbed the SIEV-X (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel, Unknown) sank between Sumatra and Christmas Island.

Many of the people on board were trying to reach family members who'd already made it to Australia. Most of those aboard - including 146 children - drowned.

Last month a Supreme Court jury in Brisbane found Khaleed Daoed guilty of helping organise the operation, and today Daoed, a 38-year-old former goldsmith from Iraq, was sentenced to nine years in prison. He'll be eligible for parole in four-and-a-half years, and he's already served 785 days in custody.

Daoed was convicted of aiding people smuggler, Egyptian man Abu Quassey, in attempting to bring people illegally to Australia.

Two years ago Quassey had been convicted in a court in Egypt of a number of charges relating to the SIEV-X sinking, including death through negligence. Quassey was sentenced to seven years in an Egyptian jail.

During Daoed's Brisbane trial earlier this year, the judge repeatedly reminded the jury that Daoed was not on trial over the deaths, only over his role in the smuggling operation.

But in sentencing Daoed this evening, Justice Phil McMurdo considered evidence that Daoed had been personally affected by the tragedy, some of his friends had died.

Daoed wept quietly as Justice McMurdo handed down the sentence.

Refugee advocates have welcomed the sentencing, but still want a full judicial inquiry into the SIEV-X disaster.

Sue Hoffman from the West Australian Refugee Alliance sat through Daoed's trial, and has been speaking for some of the victims' families. This evening, she said the trial and sentencing isn't the end of the SIEV-X matter.

SUE HOFFMAN: No not at all, not at all. Certainly the relatives of survivors of SIEV-X want to know much more about the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the vessel.

IAN TOWNSEND: Have you spoken to relatives recently?

SUE HOFFMAN: Yes, I have.

IAN TOWNSEND: What are their feelings about the conviction and sentencing of this refugee smuggler?

SUE HOFFMAN: The first thing is, it doesn't bring their families back. It doesn't answer their questions about what was known about the boat, the condition of the boat. It just doesn't address anything to do with the deaths of their families.

I see that the torment that they're in, that they're still grieving, they still suffer extremely strong the loss of their families. As one of the men says, he lost everything when that boat went down, absolutely everything. It's just a huge amount of grief and suffering that never needed to have happened in the first place.

MARK COLVIN: Sue Hoffman from the West Australian Refugee Alliance, with Ian Townsend.


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