Suspect linked to lost boat
Sydney Morning Herald
May 15, 2011
Photo Caption: Missing ... Ayed and Faten Alkazemi, along with their two daughters, are said to have been passengers on a boat from Indonesia. Photo: Natalie O'Brien
THE suspected people smuggler accused of organising the boat that was shipwrecked off Christmas Island in December has been linked to another boat that disappeared with 97 asylum seekers on board, including at least four children.
Ali Heydarkhani, an Iranian-Australian also known as Ali Hamid, was brought to Australia last week from Indonesia to face charges over the drowning deaths of 50 men, women and children in the Christmas Island tragedy.
Relatives of asylum seekers on the boat that vanished after leaving Indonesia on November 13 have identified one of the smugglers as Ali Hamid.
Phil Glendenning of the Edmund Rice Centre, a social advocacy group, said the missing boat was ''another tragedy in the long line of tragedies''.
''Because the Christmas Island tragedy happened on the television, it pricked the conscience of the nation.
''I would like to see an urgent investigation into what has happened to this [missing] boat. We have seen too many people die.''
The Australian Federal Police is believed to be investigating the boat's disappearance, and the opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, has asked the government to raise the issue with the Indonesian government.
The Sun-Herald revealed in December that the boat had failed to arrive at Christmas Island.
Relatives of more than 30 Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis on the boat said their last contact with the people on board was by mobile phone as the boat was about to set sail.
Another boat with the same number of passengers on board arrived at Christmas Island three weeks later, on December 2, but Indonesian agencies - including the International Organisation for Migration and the Red Cross's international tracing arm - have failed to find any sign of the first boat.
Many of the families who spoke to The Sun-Herald provided the names of the people smugglers, their mobile phone numbers and the name of one of the hotels in Jakarta where the asylum seekers stayed before their departure.
Yehia Alkazemi has travelled from Melbourne to Jakarta to find out what happened to his brother Ayad, sister-in-law Faten, and their daughters Hude and Hebe.
Mr Glendenning said the debate about asylum seekers had been ''partisan and appalling''.
''It is a race to the bottom about who can be the toughest on the most vulnerable people on the planet.
''Politicians need to take a good look at themselves.
''This story [about the missing boat] was first published on Boxing Day, when the boat had been missing for 42 days,'' Mr Glendenning said.
''It's now 182 days and no one in Australia has reacted. That says a lot more about us than it does about them.''
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