Trial over people smuggling
By Ainsley Pavey
28 July 2004
AN Iraqi goldsmith will face trial for allegedly helping plan an ill- fated illegal boat trip that killed 353 asylum-seekers off Christmas Island.
Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 37, was ordered to stand trial today in Brisbane's Supreme Court on 10 counts of people smuggling after facing a preliminary hearing on the charges. Brisbane Magistrate Barbara Tynan found there was a prima-facie case against Daoed, who sat through several weeks of gruelling testimony from survivors of the SIEV X disaster.
The disaster was the focus of a national inquiry after pre-election claims that the asylum-seekers had thrown their children overboard.
Daoed allegedly worked alongside convicted people smuggler Abu Quassey, who is serving a seven-year sentence for manslaughter in an Egyptian jail for his role in the trip.
Australian Federal Police are still hunting for a third suspect known as "Mathem", who was pinpointed by several survivors as a key player in the alleged people-smuggling racket in Indonesia.
Only 45 asylum-seekers survived the disaster off Christmas Island in October 2001.
They endured a 22-hour ordeal at sea before being plucked from the water by Indonesian fishing boats.
One of the survivors - Sadeq Razaq Toullah Al-Abodie - told the committal proceeding he struggled for hours at sea, believing his daughter was dead on his shoulders.
Mr Al-Abodie and his two-year-old daughter survived but his wife drowned in the rough seas.
Asylum-seekers told the hearing they were herded on to the boat by armed Indonesian police in the middle of the night after being taken to the beach in buses by the smugglers.
The hearing was told they were forced to crouch on board as there was no room to sit.
The weight of passengers on board pushed the boat down and it started taking on water within hours of setting sail, the court was told.
Survivors told the court they tried to pay the captain at one point to turn back when the engines started to fail, but he was too scared to face the police.
The court was told they also tried to contact the smugglers on a satellite phone but it failed.
Some of the survivors told the court they saw big ships shining lights on them in the water after the boat capsized but the ships disappeared.
Daoed is yet to enter a plea, but told federal agents he was acting as an interpreter on humanitarian grounds for the asylum-seekers, many having fled Saddam Hussein's violent regime in Iraq.
He is facing a maximum 20-year jail term if convicted.