Siev X people smuggler is convictedAllesandra Fabro
29 December 2003
The federal government has welcomed the conviction of the people smuggler behind the voyage of the ill-fated Siev X, which caused the death of 353 refugees en route to Australia. Abu Quassey, also known as Moataz Attiya Mohamed Hassan, was found guilty by an Egyptian court and sentenced to five years for homicide through negligence and two years for aiding illegal migration. The verdict could still be subject to an appeal. The Siev X sank in October 2001, shortly after leaving Indonesia for Christmas Island. The federal government failed in its bid to have Quassey face charges in Australia, in part because the Australian-Indonesian extradition treaty did not cover people-smuggling offences.
Instead, Quassey was extradited to his home country of Egypt, after serving six months in Indonesia for visa offences. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said bringing Quassey to justice had been a high priority for the Australian government. "The Australian government would have preferred Abu Quassey to face an Australian court and had previously sought his extradition, however, we welcome the decision by Egyptian authorities to prosecute him and offered Egypt as much assistance as legally possible," he said in a statement. Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison said the co-operation between the two countries showed Australia's commitment to stopping people smugglers. "Our efforts to bring Abu Quassey to justice in Australia and then assisting the Egyptian authorities sends a very clear message that Australia is deadly serious about bringing these 'Mr Bigs' to justice," he said. "I can't comment on the Egyptian court's penalty but seven years imprisonment with hard labour does send a message to people smugglers." If Quassey had been tried in Australia he would have faced a maximum 20 years imprisonment. Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said there were no immediate plans to pursue further extradition options. Opposition justice spokesman Robert McClelland said Quassey should have been tried in Australia and been given a life sentence. Labor called for people smuggling to come under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.