Alleged people-smuggler on trial for visa abuse
Muninggar Sri Saraswati
The Jakarta Post
August 22, 2002

Jakarta -- Due to lack of legislation on people-smuggling, an Egyptian smuggler was indicted on Wednesday for staying illegally in the country instead of smuggling hundreds of Middle Eastern people in a boat that sank and killed over 374 of the 418 on board last year.

Chief prosecutor Tarsono charged defendant Mootaz Attia Mohamad Hasan, alias Jhon, for violation of Article 53 of Law No. 9/1992 on immigration, which carries a maximum penalty of six years imprisonment and a Rp 30 million fine.

The two-page indictment only stated that Mootaz, 29, had been arrested by Dwi Hartono, an officer from the National Police Headquarters, because he did not have the correct documentation to live in the country.

It was also stated that Mootaz was arrested due to allegations that the defendant had arranged and smuggled "a number of foreigners" to Australia.

Witness M. Darmawan testified that Mootaz had taken "more than one hundred" Middle Eastern people to stay in Amarta Agung motel in Bandar Lampung, where he worked as a receptionist.

"He booked all 14 of the rooms in the motel for more than 100 Middle Eastern people. He said he took them from Bakahuni port," he told the South Jakarta District Court.

Mootaz confirmed Darmawan's testimony.

"I did arrange their travel to Australia, but I was only a guide," he said in perfect Bahasa Indonesia.

Another witness, Edward R. Silitonga of the Immigration Directorate, testified that Mootaz had been deported from the country twice. First, the directorate deported him in 1997 due to an overstay. The second occasion was in 2000 as his name appeared in the immigration blacklist because he used a tourist visa for engaging in business.

"He's still on the blacklist at present. It's impossible he entered the country through official immigration channels," he told the court, which was presided over by Judge Rohendi.

Mootaz, however, claimed that he entered the country from Malaysia using a tourist visa, valid for two months, via Medan.

"But I did overstay," he admitted.

Outside the court, Edward told reporters that the state could not charge Mootaz, arrested for allegedly smuggling people to Australia, with people-smuggling because the country had no legislation to cover it.

The trial will resume next week.

Media reports earlier identified Mootaz as Abu Quassey. He was allegedly responsible for the death of over 374 of the 418 Middle Eastern people on board after an old boat, which was heading to Australia from Lampung, sank in waters near to Christmas Island, due to its lack of seaworthiness and being overfilled.

The incident, which was believed to involve police officers, increased tension between Australia and Indonesia.

Following the incident, Canberra asked Jakarta to eradicate people-smuggling syndicates believed to be operating throughout the archipelago.

Boatpeople heading for Australia and the U.S. favor Indonesia as a transit point, taking advantage of its vast, porous coastline.


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