Court orders re-trial for people smuggler

16 December 2004
By Paige Taylor, David King

A MAN said to be Australia's most notorious people smuggler, jailed for 12 years for allegedly bringing almost 1700 illegal immigrants into the country, had his convictions overturned yesterday. Iraqi-born Palestinian, Keis Abd Rahim Asfoor was found guilty late last year by a jury in Perth District Court of 12 people-smuggling charges.

But yesterday, in a 2-1 decision, the West Australian Court of Criminal Appeal quashed his conviction and ordered a re-trial. In a majority decision, Justices Eric Heenan and Anthony Templeman ruled trial judge Shauna Deane had erred in directing the jury. Last night Mr Asfoor, who was arrested in October 2001, was in custody at Perth's Acacia jail. His lawyer Justine Fisher said her client was enormously relieved by the court ruling.

In her judgment last December, Justice Deane said Mr Asfoor had charged hundreds of desperate refugees thousands of dollars before herding them on to boats bound for Ashmore Reef, on the northern tip of the West Australian coast.

Justice Deane rejected arguments from the defence that Mr Asfoor was acting out of humanitarian interest, saying she was satisfied his main motive was profit.

'This was a relatively sophisticated enterprise and you played a critical and pivotal role,' Justice Dean said.

'There is no evidence whatsoever you were answering to a higher authority.' Mr Asfoor's seven-week trial was hailed by the federal Government as the most significant people-smuggling case yet conducted in Australia.

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