Australia in talks with Indonesia to extradite suspected people-smuggler
South China Morning Post
6 February 2003

REUTERS in Canberra
Australia said yesterday it was working with Indonesia to arrange an Australian trial for a suspected people-smuggler accused of organising a voyage from Indonesia to Australia, in which 353 asylum seekers drowned.

Egyptian Mootaz Muhammad Hasan, alias Abu Quassey, who has just completed a jail term in Jakarta for visa violations, is wanted for the disaster, which occurred in October 2001. The victims were mostly Afghans and Iraqis.

Australia has until now been unable to seek Quassey's extradition because Indonesia has no laws against people- trafficking.

But Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison said the two countries were now working closely on possible options for Quassey, who is still in Indonesia.

"We have people working with Indonesian officials in Jakarta as we speak," Mr Ellison said. "We are intent on bringing him to Australia where he can face Australian justice and we will continue to make every effort to achieve that goal."

Quassey was released from jail last month after serving a six- month prison term for visa violations, but Indonesia postponed his deportation while authorities investigated his application for an Indonesian passport.

Australian police have said Quassey, who gives his age as 29, was suspected of being involved in people-smuggling from Indonesia since early 2000.

With its porous borders, Indonesia was used as a stepping stone for Middle Eastern and Afghan asylum seekers trying to reach Australia.

But Australia cracked down hard on illegal immigration 18 months ago, intercepting boats with asylum seekers and diverting them to Pacific islands. The number of such voyages has since petered out.

Meanwhile, Australian police yesterday recaptured four asylum seekers and arrested three people accused of helping them break out of a remote detention centre.

The six Middle Eastern and Afghan men had been missing since escaping on Monday from the outback Woomera asylum camp, where they have been held while awaiting deportation or the outcome of a refugee appeal.

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