People smuggling trial continues
ABC Radio ~ 'PM'
Wednesday, September 18, 2002 18:39

HAMISH ROBERTSON: A Perth court has heard detailed evidence about cooperation between people smugglers and Indonesian police and soldiers.

Four Indonesian men are on trial for trying to smuggle more than 400 people to Christmas Island. The passengers and crew were later picked up by the Norwegian freighter The Tampa.

Today, one of the asylum seekers, the four men are accused of transporting, was giving evidence.

He said that so many people were crammed on to the 20 metre fishing vessel that no one could move for fear of capsizing the vessel.

David Webber reports.

DAVID WEBER: Through an interpreter, the 36-year-old man told the court the smuggling operation had taken him from Afghanistan to Pakistan, to Malaysia and then to Indonesia.

He'd been given a passport in Pakistan.

When he arrived in Jakarta airport, he didn't go through immigration. A man and a woman took him through a side door. The man said it looked like the police were cooperating.

He was taken to a town where there were heaps of people smugglers. He said he was told not to mix with other clients and other smugglers.

Then he was driven at night to get to the place where the boat would leave from. The man told the court there were many buses, and each had two armed Indonesian soldiers on it. The soldiers were trying to rush them and get them to the boat before dawn. The man gave the reason for this.

INTERPRETER: The security that they were dealing with, their shift would change when the sun rose.

DAVID WEBER: The man said he was given a bottle of water and a biscuit for the trip. He was told the destination was close and he'd get there quickly. He told the court that he thought a maximum of 250 people would be on the boat that would take them to Australia. He thought they'd be transferred to a bigger boat, but he said he couldn't believe there were so many people on board the Palapa, which was only 20 metres long. He said he didn't know there was a total of 438, until they were counted on The Tampa.

The man told the court it wasn't possible to move around on deck without stepping on someone.

People who were inside found it difficult to get the door, whenever they felt sick, and he was afraid any movement would affect the equilibrium of the boat. He said:

"These bloody people smugglers, they used small spaces for the sake of profit, and on top of the boat they made another compartment by hand, so the boat could take more people."

When he was asked who was steering the boat, the man pointed out one of the accused, Bastian Disun. He said every time he looked at the wheelhouse, Disun was there.

Mr Hussani said that after the engine stopped for the last time, they were on the broken and sinking boat for two or three days. He said it wasn't until they were spotted by a plane that they thought something would be done and they'd be rescued. He said then, there'd be some light.

The trial continues.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: David Webber reporting.

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