7 years for 353 deathsJason Frenkel
A CONVICTED people-smuggler who played a part in the deaths of more than 350 asylum seekers en route to Australia will spend seven years in an Egyptian jail.
Abu Quassey will spend about one week behind bars for each of the 353 people who drowned when the ship designated SIEV-X sank in October 2001. The Australian Government yesterday said it was disappointed Quassey had been tried in Egypt rather than Australia, where he faced up to 20 years' jail.
There is little chance he will ever appear before an Australian court.
Quassey, also known as Moataz Attiya Mohamed Hassan, played a key role in organising the voyage, which ended when the overcrowded boat sank in the Indian Ocean.
The asylum seekers on board the vessel were mainly from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
The Cairo court was told Quassey charged about $1300 for passage to Australia, promising people would find work in their new homeland.
But the SIEV-X encountered strong winds after leaving Indonesia and capsized. Just 44 people survived.
A Cairo court sentenced Quassey to five years' prison for homicide through negligence, and two years for aiding illegal migration.
The Federal Government tried unsuccessfully to extradite Quassey, 37, to Australia in April to answer people-smuggling charges.
But Justice Minister Chris Ellison said a complicated extradition process, and the double jeopardy principle, which prevents an accused from being tried twice for the same crime, mean Quassey's chances of facing justice here are slim.
"It's going to be difficult to try him over here," Senator Ellison told the Herald Sun. "But this sends a strong message to people everywhere, that people-smuggling will not be tolerated."
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said she hoped the sentence brought comfort to the relatives of victims.
"Accidents happen but negligence, criminal negligence, it would be very hard to live with," Senator Vanstone said.
One of Quassey's al leged accomplices, Iraqi national Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, is facing people-smuggling charges in a Brisbane court.