Indon police linked to boatpeople

By Ainsley Pavey
April 06, 2004

A FORMER Iraqi soldier has told a court how armed Indonesian police ushered hundreds of illegal immigrants aboard a doomed vessel which sunk off Christmas Island.

Mahmod Salem Yussef, who is living in Brisbane on a temporary protection visa, was giving evidence today at a three-day committal hearing in Brisbane's Magistrates Court against accused people smuggler Khaleed Daoed.

Daoed faces 12 charges under Australia's Migration Act over the vessel Siev-X, which sank in October 2001, and another voyage which reached the island two months earlier.

Mr Yussef told the court he saw police officers on the beach at Cipanas in Indonesia and in small boats ferrying passengers to the overcrowded Siev-X before it set sail for Australia.

He said he was among the last to be taken to the boat and refused to board with his wife because of overcrowding.

He was among 18 others to return to the beach with Daoed and had begged the organisers to return to the vessel to get his friend and other passengers wanting to disembark.

Mr Yussef said he saw Daoed, police and convicted smuggler Abu Quassey go back and heard people calling out as torches were shone to give the captain the go-ahead to leave.

He said when the men returned Daoed told him he was begging some of the passengers to get off but they refused.

"I think I swore at him - I can't remember," Mr Yussef told the court.

The Siev-X later sank with 353 people drowning at sea and 45 others rescued after they waited a night for Indonesian authorities to rescue them.

Mr Yussef said he met Daoed and Quassey and two other alleged people smugglers in Indonesia after five years in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein's regime in the hope of finding asylum in any other country.

Daoed has pleaded not guilty to the charges which carry a maximum 20-year jail term, claiming he was acting as an interpreter on humanitarian grounds for the passengers, some of whom included his relatives.

The 37-year-old has sat weeping throughout the evidence of survivors at the hearing before Brisbane Magistrate Barbara Tynan.

The hearing is continuing.


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