Evidence offer on smuggler
By Sophie Morris
8 September 2003
AUSTRALIA will offer evidence this week to Egyptian prosecutors for use in the trial of Abu Quassey, the man accused of masterminding the ill-fated voyage of people-smuggling vessel SievX, in which at least 350 people drowned.
A spokesman for Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison said yesterday that the Egyptian ambassador in Canberra would be told Australian Federal Police could provide a brief of evidence and witness statements gathered from the 45 survivors.
Egyptian-born Quassey, also known as Mootaz Muhammad Hasan, reportedly has been charged in Cairo with the manslaughter of the 350 people who died when the crowded fishing boat sank in the Indian Ocean in October 2001.
Quassey was extradited in May to Egypt from Indonesia, where he had been detained for six months for visa offences but could not be prosecuted for his role in the Siev X tragedy because Indonesia had no people-smuggling laws.
Senator Ellison's spokesman said Australia had previously sought his extradition from Egypt to face charges here, and had also offered to help authorities in Cairo to prosecute the alleged people-smuggler.
"So far, we have not had a response to this offer, so this week we will be renewing the offer of assistance and will probably be speaking to the ambassador," he said.
Former diplomat Tony Kevin, who has campaigned over the past two years for Quassey to be brought to justice, welcomed news of his pending trial in Egypt.
"I do not know what Egypt's standards of jurisprudence in this matter will be," Mr Kevin said. "But already Egypt is doing more than Australia or Indonesia ever did in the last 23 months - it is putting Abu Quassey on trial for the alleged manslaughter of 350 people.
"The issue is now whether Quassey will have a fair trial that exposes all the evidence."