Man behind deadly voyages faces 7 years

Alexandra Sheehy and Karlis Salna
February 13, 2013

AN Afghan man involved in organising an asylum-seeker boat that sank on the way to Christmas Island knew the vessel was overloaded but still insisted it set off on its deadly voyage, prosecutors say.

At least 90 people perished when the rickety vessel went down in the Sunda Strait on June 21 last year while on the way to Christmas Island. Another 110 were rescued.

Prosecutors have demanded a seven-year jail term for Dawood Amiri, who has admitted to helping organise the people-smuggling venture which netted about $1 million from the 200 asylum seekers who paid as much as $6000 to be on the doomed boat.

But Amiri claimed he was only a small part in the operation, adding that he didn't share in the super profits being made by those in charge of the syndicate.

"If I made a lot of money, I wouldn't be here," he told AAP on Wednesday from his cell at the East Jakarta District Court.

"This is the place where money works. If you have it, you will never be behind bars."

"I deserve to be in here but not for seven years."

He said he was still haunted by thoughts of those who perished.

"They were my family members and my friends."

However, prosecutors maintain that Amiri knew that the boat that left Java on June 21 was overloaded and unfit for the perilous crossing to Christmas Island.

"The defendant knew that the ship had exceeded its normal capacity," according to prosecutor, Fatkhuri, who has just one name.

"But the defendant still forced the boat to leave for Australia."

Amiri was also allegedly responsible for collecting payments from asylum seekers by either taking cash or providing details of accounts to which money was to be transferred.

He is accused of arranging for the transport of passengers to beaches around Java, from where they would be ferried in smaller boats to larger vessels for the trip to Christmas Island.

The ethnic Hazara, who was initially thought to be 19 when he was arrested last year but has since said he is actually 25, has also admitted to sending several other boats to Australia, including one that sank a week after the June 21 disaster.

Four people died and 130 were rescued when that boat sank.

Amiri is expected to be sentenced on February 20.


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