Extracted from House of Representatives Notice Paper
23 October 2003

MR RUDD: To ask the Ministers listed below
(questions Nos. *2658 - *2660)-

(1) Which Australian government departments and agencies are involved in working contacts with Egyptian court authorities regarding the forthcoming trial in Egypt (resuming on 25 October 2003) of the alleged people smuggler Mootaz Muhammad Hasan (aka Abu Quassey).

(2) Is he able to confirm that the charge against Abu Quassey is the manslaughter of 350 people who drowned when their boat sank on its way from Indonesia to Australia in October 2001 as was reported by Reuters and ABC News on 7 September 2003; if not, what is the exact charge against Abu Quassey.

(3) Is he able to confirm the report titled 'Egypt court accepts Australian help' in www.news.com.au on 29 September 2003 which stated that the charge has been reduced to lesser charges of 'causing death by mistake' and 'aiding and abetting the entry of aliens without effective travel documents'.

(4) If the charge has been reduced, was this done at the advice of Australian authorities; if so, which authorities and for what reasons.

(5) Is he able to confirm the reports in the Australian press on 8 September 2003 that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) offered to Egyptian prosecutors for use in the trial 'a brief of evidence and witness statements gathered from the 45 survivors' from the sinking of SIEV X.

(6) Has the AFP offered Egyptian authorities a brief of evidence and witness statements obtained from SIEV X survivors who now reside in Australia on temporary protection visas (TPV); if so, (a) how many survivors in Australia provided witness statements to the AFP, and (b) what other forms did this evidence take.

(7) Is it the case that the Egyptian court has accepted an Australian offer of assistance to prosecute Abu Quassey.

(8) Where is the Quassey trial taking place and will the court proceedings be held in public.

(9) Is it the case that Australian Federal Police recently revisited some of the SIEV X survivors living in Australia and offered to take them to Egypt to testify in the Quassey trial; if so, is it also the case that the Australian government offered to cover the costs of their travel and that some survivors have accepted this offer.

(10) Were guarantees given by Australian authorities to SIEV X survivors living in Australia that if they were to go to Egypt to testify in this trial they would be able to return to Australia after testifying; if so, do the guarantees take the form of a waiver of the conditions of their TPVs that leaving Australia for any reason would result in the automatic cancellation of their TPV.

(11) Has he been advised that the higher the number of survivors of the SIEV X sinking who are able to testify in sworn statements or in person before the Egyptian court, the better chance the court will have to establish the facts of the case and to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done.

(12) Has he been advised that, if there is not available to the court a body of broadly-based oral or written testimony from a large number of SIEV X survivors, the provision of oral or written testimonies from the few survivors who are currently residing in Australia will place a heavy evidentiary burden on this small number of testimonies.

(13) Can he confirm that there are up to 78 surviving persons who are, subject to considerations of age and health, potentially available to testify in this trial.

(14) What is the Australian Government doing to encourage and assist the Egyptian Government to establish contact with the large number of SIEV X survivors who are known to be living in other countries that accepted them as refugees

*2658 MR RUDD: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

*2659 MR RUDD: To ask the Attorney-General.

*2660 MR RUDD: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.

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