Eight years' jail for Iraqi

By Andra Jackson
The Age
September 22, 2004

Iraqi national Ali Hassan Abdolamir al-Jenabi, the first person to be extradited to Australia to face people-smuggling charges, was sentenced to eight years' jail yesterday.

Jenabi was convicted for bringing 250 asylum seekers in fishing boats to Ashmore Reef from Indonesia in 2000 and 2001.

Justice Dean Mildren gave Jenabi a non-parole period of four years, backdated to when he was arrested in Thailand in June 2002. The court found that his primary motivation was not money - passengers paid between $2100 and $3500 each - but getting his family to Australia. The passengers included his mother and five siblings, who are now living in Australia on temporary protection visas.

The court recognised that Jenabi, who escaped from Iraq in 1991 after seven years in Abu Ghraib prison, was motivated by the desire to rescue his family.

While Jenabi was heavily involved in the operation, organising the boatloads of mainly Iraqi and Iranian asylum seekers, he was not the principal smuggler, Justice Mildren said.

Justice Minister Chris Ellison said the sentence was a warning to would-be smugglers. "It sends a clear message that people smuggling is regarded seriously," Senator Ellison said.

Perth refugees advocates Kaye Bernard and Jack Smit from Project SafeCom and former champion athlete Betty Cuthbert have called for the courts to recognise that smugglers may be operating on humanitarian grounds. They want two convicted Vietnamese people smugglers who claimed similar motives to be released from jail in Perth.

Mr Smit said: "Australia under its current mandatory imprisonment of so-called people smugglers, would lock up the priest who assisted the Von Trapp family across the Swiss Alps to Austria, as well as the man who sold a donkey to Mary and Joseph who ran off to Egypt."

Jenabi struck a deal with people smugglers to work in exchange for bringing his family.

Justice Mildren said Jenabi had no prior convictions and added: "It's clear that this offence is not now prevalent . . . there have been only two vessels to arrive in Australia . . . since August 2001."

X-URL: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/09/21/1095651324215.html

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