Court suppressed people-smuggling link to Jakarta brass

Rory Callinan and Debbie Guest
September 20, 2011 12:00AM

AN alleged corrupt relationship involving a top Indonesian military figure, Indonesian people-smugglers and local police is being kept secret via a series of suppression orders in the West Australian courts that have been endorsed by the commonwealth.

Exact details of the identity of the military figure and the alleged improper dealings, which have been described as having the potential to have an impact on Australia's diplomatic ties with Indonesia, were initially raised but then suppressed during the Perth District Court trial of dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen Hadi Ahmadi on people-smuggling charges.

Ahmadi was later sentenced to 7 1/2 years and is appealing against his conviction. The allegations may re-emerge should the appeal succeed.

They raise questions about the commitment and ability of Indonesian authorities to combat people-smuggling operations.

Despite Ahmadi's trial occurring last year, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said lifting the suppression orders was something that only the court could consider. The suppressions were introduced when Ahmadi's defence counsel Jonathan Davies last year sought to raise questions about protection of asylum-seekers and smuggling in Indonesia.

Mr Davies had sought to prove that people-smugglers had needed a significant level of protection and relied upon this individual.

The day after the person was named, prosecution counsel Ron Davies QC told presiding District Court judge Andrew Stavrianou that the Australian Federal Police were concerned about public interest if corruption issues were canvassed.

Judge Stavrianou then suppressed the name of the military figure and Ahmadi's counsel did not object.

Later that day, the AFP's counsel, Jeremy Allanson SC, sought further suppression orders, this time in relation to information that, he said, among other issues, had "the potential firstly to damage the relationship between Australia and Indonesia".

In arguing this point, Jonathan Davies said: "We would seek to ventilate the idea that a figure of -- I'll describe him as a figure of great power and influence in the Republic of Indonesia -- allowed these illegal activities described by the witnesses to go on under an aegis of protection.

"And that is important for us, to show why it is, apparently, we have people moving about Indonesia with impunity, with asylum-seekers moving onto buses and using public transport and so on."

Mr Davies argued the fact that asylum-seekers had to rely on such corrupt individuals proved their lives were in serious danger. "And so that is why it is necessary that this jury know about that."

Jonathan Davies argued there were individuals who were "complicit in this particular umbrella of protection that subsisted in Indonesia in this particular period, and unfortunately they are connected even higher up the food chain . . . to quite a distressing level."

He sought a concession from the prosecution to agree that this type of arrangement existed, saying "as the federal police well know, these matters were able to go on unimpeded for so long."

However, Ron Davies, for the prosecution, declined to agree to any concession.

"The assertion that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions well knows that to be so is not correct," he said.

"There is no concession that I am either in possession of information to make or prepared to even consider."

Jonathan Davies was asked to liaise with his AFP counterpart about the issues.

The following day the court was closed as a result of public interest immunity issues, effectively suppressing the detail of the corruption. Jonathan Davies declined to comment.

A CDPP spokeswoman said: "Suppression orders in the matter of Hadi Ahmadi were properly made by the court after considering the relevant factors. Court orders are a matter for the court."

An AFP spokeswoman said suppression orders were court-ordered documents and it would be unlawful to provide any information on them. She said the AFP had no authority over the application or removal of suppression orders or for the release of court ordered suppressed documents.


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