Aust to help Egypt with smuggler
By Catharine Munro
19 February 2003
AUSTRALIA was prepared to help Egypt prosecute SIEV X people smuggler Abu Quassey, Justice Minister Chris Ellison said today.
The Indonesian government announced late last week that it would not send Quassey to Australia, despite a request by a delegation from Canberra last month to do so.
Quassey would be tried in Egypt, according to its embassy in Jakarta, but no decision has been made on what charges would be laid.
"He will be charged according to evidence provided by the Australian side," the official in Egypt's Jakarta embassy said.
Quassey has said he helped arrange a voyage of asylum seekers to Australia in October 2001 on which 353 people drowned.
The Indonesian vessel, known to Australian authorities as SIEV X, sank off the coast of Sumatra with more than 400 people on board.
Senator Ellison said that while a "formal mutual assistance request" was yet to come from Cairo: "We will assist Egypt in the prosecution of Abu Quassey in whatever way we legally can".
"The Australian government remains firmly committed to bringing Abu Quassey to justice for his alleged participation in people smuggling to Australia from the Middle East and South Asia."
Egypt would ensure that Quassey was immediately arrested upon his arrival in Cairo, the Egyptian embassy official said.
It was highly unlikely that Egypt would agree to send Quassey to Australia because there was no extradition treaty between the two countries, he said.
However, the final decision was yet to be made by the Ministry of Justice in Cairo, he said.
Egyptian courts have the power to charge Egyptian nationals with crimes committed in other countries.
Quassey could face 15 to 20 years in jail if he were charged with causing harm or death, the official said.
With no laws against people smuggling, Indonesian immigration officials continue to hold Quassey, who has only served a six month jail term in Jakarta for breaching immigration violations.
The paperwork had not been completed for Quassey's removal to Egypt, said departmental supervisor Muhammad Indra.
Indra indicated a level of irritation in Jakarta over the inability of the Australian government to extradite alleged Indonesian central bank embezzler Hendra Rahardja before he died last month.
"Why are you so curious about Abu Quassey while Australia was so difficult about Hendra Rahardja," he told AAP.