Illegal migrant tells his story in smuggling trial
By Roy Gibson
West Australian
15 November 2003

AN ILLEGAL immigrant described yesterday how he spent three months getting from Iraq to a new life in Australia.

Kayic Al-Abbase, who was a teacher in Iraq specialising in history and geography, told a District Court jury that he fled his homeland in May 1999. He travelled via Jordan and Malaysia to Indonesia before spending more than a month in cheap hotels in Bali. Then it was on to the town of Bima on the island of Sumbawa, where he boarded a boat to Australia.

The court was told that in August 1999 Mr Al-Abbase was one of more than 100 illegal immigrants from Iraq and Iran who were found on Ashmore Reef.

Mr Al-Abbase said the Australian navy then took him to Darwin. After some time in a detention centre, he had been released and was now living in South Australia.

He was giving evidence in the trial of Palestinian-born Keis Abd Rahim Asfoor, 33, who is alleged to have been the mastermind behind a lucrative people-smuggling business in Indonesia.

Mr Asfoor has pleaded not guilty to more than 50 charges of organising or taking part in sending almost 1700 illegal immigrants to Australia between July 1999 and October 2001, covering 13 boat trips.

In his opening to the jury earlier this week, prosecutor Ron Davies QC described Mr Asfoor as the key organiser who lied to passengers about the nature of the sea voyage. He said Mr Asfoor co-ordinated accommodation, transport and provisions for thousands of passengers arriving in Indonesia from their homelands.

Mr Asfoor was arrested at Perth Airport in October 2001 after flying in from Bali on a false Turkish passport. He was accompanied by an Indonesian charter boat operator who had turned Federal police informant and had secured a visa for Mr Asfoor.

Yesterday, Mr Al-Abbase, speaking through an interpreter, told the jury that he spent 42 days in hotels in Bali with a group of eight Iraqis. One day, a man known as Keis came to the hotel and collected $US2500 from each person for the journey to Australia. Asked if he could identify Keis again, Mr Al-Abbase said it was four years since he had seen him. He looked around the courtroom before saying that he could not recognise Keis.

The trial continues on Monday.


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