Jakarta to deport suspected people smuggler
Wednesday, January 1, 2003 Posted: 12:02 AM EST (0502 GMT)
JAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) -- An Egyptian man accused of organizing a voyage from Indonesia to Australia on which hundreds of asylum seekers drowned has been released from a Jakarta jail and will soon be deported.
Immigration officials detained Mootaz Muhammad Hasan, alias Abu Quassey, as soon as the suspected people smuggler was freed. They said he would be deported after various bureaucratic checks.
Quassey had served a six-month jail term for visa violations. He is wanted in Australia over the deadly voyage in October 2001 in which 353 mostly Afghan and Iraqi nationals drowned when their overcrowded vessel sank in the Indian Ocean.
"He will be held for the moment before being deported," said one immigration official, declining to say how long the process would take or if Quassey would be sent to Egypt.
Quassey was first arrested soon after the deaths of the asylum seekers. Only 44 survived the fateful trip.
In an interview with an Australian television station last August about the deaths of the asylum seekers the year before, Quassey said it was God's will his clients died.
But speaking briefly to Reuters at an immigration office after he was released on Wednesday, Quassey denied involvement in people smuggling. He said he did not know Australia wanted him.
"What do they want with me? I have to simply submit (to fate), what can I do," said Quassey, speaking in fluent Indonesian and appearing depressed.
Quassey said he was 29, had an Iraqi wife and one child.
He said he might be held in Jakarta for another week.
Early last month, Australian police said they were ready to start pushing for Quassey's extradition by working with other law enforcement agencies in the region to arrest him and bring him to Australia to face charges over the deadly voyage and others.
Indonesia has rebuffed a bid to have Quassey extradited to Australia, where he would have faced people-smuggling charges.
Australian police have said Quassey was suspected of being involved in people smuggling from Indonesia since early 2000, first as a provider of passengers to other established organizers in Indonesia and then as an organizer of trips himself.
With its porous borders, Indonesia is a stepping stone for Middle East and Afghan asylum seekers trying to reach Australia. But Canberra cracked down hard on illegal migration 18 months ago, and the flow of voyages has since dried up.