Alleged people smuggler faces court
PM - Friday, 7 November , 2003 18:22:00
Reporter: Matt Wordsworth

MARK COLVIN: An Iraqi man alleged to have been involved in the people smuggling operation, which ended in the drowning of hundreds of suspected asylum seekers faced a Brisbane court today.

Khaleed Shnayf Daoed is charged with 12 counts of people smuggling over the ill-fated voyage of the SIEV-X, which sank south of Indonesia in October 2001. Almost all the 400 passengers onboard the boat died.

Now, more than two years later, federal lawyers have launched their first prosecution, as Matt Wordsworth reports.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Federal police believe the people onboard the boat named the SIEV-X, which stands for suspected illegal entry vessel "X", were bound for Australia. They left Indonesia from the island of Sumatra as potential asylum seekers but never even made it to Australian waters - 353 men, women and children drowned.

The Federal Police immediately began an investigation to track down those who organised the operation. The investigation took them all the way to Sweden, where they requested the extradition of Khaleed Shnayf Daoed.

Today the 36-year-old Kuwaiti-born Iraqi arrived in Brisbane, to face 12 counts of people smuggling. Sitting in the dock, Daoed, who needed an interpreter, was visibly shaken. As he waited for the hearing he silently wept.

Solicitor Peter Russo says it's been a massive upheaval for his client.

PETER RUSSO: As you can imagine he's just come from overseas, he's not - he's fairly disorientated and, you know, he's needed some reassurance about what happens in this country for people who get themselves in trouble.

MATT WORDSWORTH: The Justice and Customs Minister, Chris Ellison, praised Australian authorities for their work, and the Swedish Government for allowing the extradition.

CHRIS ELLISON: Of course, Mr Daoed is an alleged accomplice with Abu Quassey - a man who's on trial in Egypt for his role in relation to people smuggling charges in relation to Australia, in particular the vessel SIEV-X. And it demonstrates yet again Australia's determination to bring to justice those criminals behind that abhorrent trade of people smuggling.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Justice Minister Chris Ellison.

Abu Quassey was another target of the Australian investigation but he could not be extradited from Indonesia, because it has no people smuggling laws. However, he was arrested for violating his visa.

When he was deported to his native Egypt, authorities there charged him with manslaughter and people smuggling. The court will hand down a verdict late next month, and Quassey faces a 3 to 7-year jail term of guilty.

But Daoed's solicitor says, there was no need for Mr Ellison to hold a press conference before the case has even been heard.

PETER RUSSO: Obviously, at some point in time the Minister would have something to say but it's very early days and I think we've got to be very careful that we don't jump the gun and put information before the Australian public that perhaps would prejudice his case.

MATT WORDSWORTH: For Daoed, who faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, tonight is his first night in an Australian jail. The magistrate ordered he be remanded in custody to reappear in court next month.

MARK COLVIN: Matt Wordsworth in Brisbane.


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