Jakarta raid nets death-voyage smuggler

Paul Maley and Peter Alford
May 13, 2013 12:00AM

INDONESIAN police have arrested an alleged people-smuggler wanted in connection with an asylum boat that sank last year, claiming an estimated 90 lives.

As authorities boarded a boat carrying 95 asylum-seekers off Bali, en route to Australia, a senior Indonesian National Police source yesterday confirmed the arrest of Javaid Mahmud Butt, also known as Hasan Billu or Billu, at a North Jakarta apartment block on Friday.

Police have been chasing Billu since the arrest of Dawood Amiri in connection with the sinking of a grossly overloaded fishing boat on June 21 last year. Australian Search and Rescue saved 110 people and about 90 are assumed drowned. Dawood admitted supplying about 52 people to the boat and was jailed for six years.

During questioning by police, he implicated Billu and several other smuggling agents in organising passengers for the boat.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police confirmed the arrest of Billu and congratulated the Indonesian National Police.

The AFP did not say whether Billu was arrested based on information supplied by the AFP, but noted the arrest "demonstrates the successful close co-operation between Australia and international law enforcement and the joint commitment to the fight against people-smuggling".

Last week, Sydney man Qasem Ali was jailed for six years by an Indonesian court for his role in sending asylum boats to Australia.

The conviction of Ali, who was in business with one of the trade's major operators, Pakistan-based Haji Ali Zafar, was a major coup for Indonesian authorities.

The latest arrest came as 95 asylum-seekers were detained by Bali police early yesterday in what appeared to be a sting operation.

The asylum-seekers, who according to a Bali police officer were Syrian, Afghan, Turkish and Iranian, were stopped about 5am, shortly after boarding their boat.

En route to Australia, most of the asylum-seekers were last night refusing to disembark the boat, which was moored at Tanjung Benoa in Kuta.

The relatively high number of women and children on the boat - about 26 women and 14 children, according to Balinese police - is consistent with an alarming rise in family groups now arriving on asylum-boats. As reported by The Australian last week, up to 40 per cent of boatpeople are members of family groups, up from about 20 per cent last year.

The Balinese police officer said yesterday 21 of the asylum-seekers had left the boat but the remainder had so far refused. It was not clear exactly why.

Local authorities proposed to take a non-confrontational approach to the stand-off and hoped to persuade the women and children to leave first.

Two Indonesian crewmen were also on the boat and were reportedly arrested.

On Saturday, Banten police arrested 25 asylum-seekers near Tangerang. They were making their way to a boat bound for Christmas Island.

Additional reporting: Telly Nathalia


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