Man behind boat tragedy gets jail term

February 21, 2013
Michael Bachelard
Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media

AN AFGHAN people smuggler who helped organise a deadly boat last year that altered the course of the asylum seeker debate has been sentenced to six years in an Indonesian prison.

Dawood Amiri, 26, also known as ''Irfan'', admitted he was a ''co-ordinator'' for several smuggling syndicates.

He was also fined 750 million rupiah ($76,000) after being found guilty of people smuggling, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail under Indonesia's immigration laws. If he cannot pay the fine, he is liable for another six months in jail. Prosecutors had demanded a seven-year term.

Amiri, an ethnic Hazara, denies he is a kingpin of the smuggling racket, but has admitted that he helped arrange people to travel on four boats to Australia last year.

Amiri was arrested on June 27 last year, less than a week after an overloaded boat he had helped organise sank on the way to Christmas Island with 204 asylum seekers aboard. At least 92 died that day.

The sinking of that boat and then another a few days later, which killed four, prompted Labor to bring its Malaysian proposal back into Parliament.

The failure of that debate to change the law led the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to appoint the Angus Houston-led committee, which in turn prompted her to reverse her long-standing opposition to processing asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

Amiri has said he was responsible for organising 52 Hazara people from Afghanistan to come to the landing place for the June 21 trip.

He then kept in contact with them through the four days of their ill-fated journey.


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