Death captain 'predicted sinking'

Jasmin Lill
Courier Mail
6 April 2004

THE captain of an illegal migrant boat told a teenage passenger he did not think it would reach Australia - and it sank, killing 353 people, a court was told yesterday.

It was the first day of a committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrate's Court where Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 36, is facing 12 charges related to people-smuggling in 2001.

Some of the charges followed the deaths of 353 asylum-seekers who drowned when the SIEV-X (suspected illegal entry vehicle) sank on its way to Australia in October 2001, about 60 nautical miles south of Indonesia.

Only 44 survived, spending more than 20 hours in the water before being rescued by an Indonesian fishing vessel.

One of the survivors, Rami Akram, said the death boat had gone only a short distance when it began taking on water.

"I said to the captain, 'Do you think this boat will get us to Australia?' " he said.

"He said 'no'."

Daoed burst into tears several times yesterday in court, where it was claimed he had taken part in organising the doomed voyage.

The hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for him to stand trial. The former goldsmith could face as long as 20 years in jail if he is convicted.

The ringleader of the SIEV-X people smuggling operation, Egyptian Abu Quassey, was sentenced to seven years' jail by an Egyptian court last December after he was found guilty of homicide through negligence and aiding illegal immigration.

But the court was told that Daoed's explanation for his involvement was that he was farewelling friends and relatives who were going on the voyage, and had offered translation services on "a humanitarian basis".

Akram's mother Amal Basry told the court she and her son had fled Iran and flown to Kuala Lumpur, where they had been set upon by people smugglers.

"There is not just one smuggler - there is many smuggler," she said.

"They fight to make a deal with us."

Mother and son travelled to Jakarta and then Sumatra, where they were taken to see their boat for the first time.

Some of the boatpeople helped pull the anchor up, and Akram said he heard Daoed and some other men on the beach say: "God look after them."

Outside court, Daoed's solicitor Peter Russo said his client was protesting his innocence.

"It's a tragic case for everyone concerned," he said. "It's tragic for him and it was tragic for the people who were on board the boat."

Some of the charges relate to a separate incident in August 2001, when an illegal migrant boat reached Christmas Island safely.

The hearing is continuing.


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