People smuggler begins appeal

13 December 2004

AN appeal against one of the Federal Government's main victories in the campaign against people smuggling began in a Perth court today.

In January, Keis Abd Rahim Asfoor, 33, was imprisoned for 12 years for his part in a sophisticated operation that brought almost 1700 illegal immigrants to Australia. The scheme was estimated to have earned him and his partner more than $3 million each.

Following a seven-week trial, a jury found the Iraqi-born Palestinian guilty of 12 charges related to taking thousands of US dollars from hundreds of refugees before herding them onto boats bound for Ashmore Reef, on the northern tip of the WA coastline.

In the State Court of Criminal Appeal today, Asfoor's lawyers appealed against both the conviction and sentence.

His lawyer, Richard Grayson, argued that trial judge Shauna Deane had erred in her directions to the jury over the identification of Asfoor as the man behind the people-smuggling operation.

At the trial, dozens of the illegal immigrants brought to Australia by Asfoor's operation identified him as the man they had dealt with, having pointed him out in photos and in court.

But Mr Grayson said Judge Deane should have warned the jury repeatedly of the dangers of relying on the identifications when summing up the case.

'There was no direction on this mass of conflicting evidence about identification,' Mr Grayson said.

Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison praised the sentence handed down to Asfoor, but Commonwealth prosecutors are trying to have the jail term increased.

The hearings are due to continue for several days.


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