Alleged people smuggler faces Darwin court
The World Today
Wednesday, 6 August 2003
Reporter: Anne Barker
ELEANOR HALL: Well, to Darwin now, where the first person to be extradited to Australia on charges of people smuggling is in court today.
Ali Hassan Abdolimir Al Jenabi is alleged to have helped smuggle 359 asylum seekers to Australia in the years 2000 and 2001. He was then arrested in Bangkok and was extradited to Australia earlier this year.
And as Anne Barker reports from Darwin, under Australia's tough new immigration laws he could now face years in jail if he's found guilty.
ANNE BARKER: From mid-2000 to late 2001, wave after wave of asylum seekers arrived on Australia's shores. Most were from the Middle East and many came on boats that had travelled from or via Indonesia.
Today, the Darwin Magistrates Court has begun hearing the story of four boats that washed up on the remote Ashmore Reef between June 2000 and August the following year. Between them they carried 359 men, women and children, all hoping for a new life.
Thirty-two-year-old Ali Hassan Abdolimir Al Jenabi is the man charged with organising their passage. And today, he sat quietly in court as the prosecution read at length the 22 charges against him.
PATRICIA KELLY: That between January 2000 and June 2000, in Indonesia or elsewhere, did organise to bring five or more people to Australia, reckless of whether they had a right to be in Australia.
ANNE BARKER: Al Jenabi, if indeed that's his real name, is the first person extradited to Australia on people smuggling charges. And under Australia's tough immigration laws, he could face a maximum 20 years jail if he's found guilty.
He was arrested at Bangkok Airport last year, when Immigration Police caught him using a false passport. Today, the Prosecutor, Patricia Kelly, told the court Al Jenabi had crudely substituted his photo in a Moroccan passport.
PATRICIA KELLY: The defendant was stopped and questioned in April 2000 upon his arrival at Bangkok Airport. He's alleged to have presented a Moroccan passport in the name of Al Mustafa Sharadi (phonetic). When questioned by Thai Immigration Police, he admitted he was on a false passport and stated he was an Iraqi.
ANNE BARKER: The prosecution alleges that Al Jenabi was living in Indonesia and spent months arranging the illegal passage of the 359 asylum seekers in question. That he organised visas and accommodation in Indonesia, and their journey to the port or beach from where they left. And that he collected up to US$10,000 from each asylum seeker.
Several of Al Jenabi's alleged passengers are listed to give evidence in court, in full view of the man who arranged their entry to Australia.
Prosecutor Patricia Kelly has asked the court to recognise them as vulnerable witnesses because of their fear of retribution from Al Jenabi. And she wants a special screen erected in court to restrict their view of him.
PATRICIA KELLY: They have expressed fear and distress about having to sit in court and perhaps have the defendant eyeball them. These are witnesses who have arrived in Australia in very stressful circumstances and remain in very stressful circumstances, whether they are or are not subjected to a protection visa.
ANNE BARKER: Al Jenabi's lawyers rejected the application, arguing the asylum seekers may have been desperate and brave in coming to Australia, but not vulnerable.
The committal hearing is expected to last several weeks.
ELEANOR HALL: Anne Barker reporting from Darwin.