Egypt court accepts Australian help
From correspondents in Cairo
September 29, 2003

AN Egyptian court has received help from Canberra to prosecute an alleged people smuggler accused of organising a voyage in which 353 asylum seekers drowned near Australia, a diplomat said today.

Australia helps Egypt prosecute man over refugee drownings EGYPT AUST CAIRO, Sept 28 AFP - Mootaz Muhammad Hasan, 37, appeared at a new hearing here yesterday for his trial in connection with the deaths of the asylum seekers in October 2001, with his case adjourned until October 25.

"We have offered assistance to the Egyptians and they have accepted the offer," an Australian diplomat said here on condition he not be named, adding such assistance was "routine".

The diplomat declined to specify what assistance was given but an Egyptian court source said the Australians had handed over "a large number of files and documents, including video cassettes (of interviews of) survivors".

Hasan faces up to life in prison if convicted in a high state security court of "causing death by mistake" and of "aiding and abetting the entry of aliens without effective travel documents", sources close to the case said.

Verdicts in the court set up under emergency laws cannot be appealed, although Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak must approve them.

Hasan wore white prison garb as he stood in a cage in the courtroom and was watched by his wife and four-year-old daughter in a trial that opened three weeks ago.

Australian police allege he organised an ill-fated October 2001 bid by hundreds of asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq, to reach Australia aboard an Indonesian ship dubbed by Australian authorities as (suspected illegal entry vessel) Siev X. They said 353 drowned.

Hasan was arrested in Indonesia last year and served time in jail there on visa violations but Australia failed to gain his extradition as Indonesia has no laws against people smuggling.

He was deported to Egypt in April and Australia vowed to pursue legal action against him.

"We had asked for extradition. But the Egyptians told us they do not extradite Egyptian citizens for trial in other countries," the Australian diplomat here said. "It's not possible at the moment (to win extradition). We're just observing the trial," he added.
Agence France-Presse


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