Accused smuggler demands explanation
By Liza Kappelle
28 February 2003
A PALESTINIAN man accused of smuggling 13 boatloads of asylum seekers to Australia demanded in court yesterday to know why he was having to wait two years to face trial.
Keis Abd Al Rahim Asfoor, 32, was arrested at Perth International Airport on October 5, 2001 and later charged in relation to smuggling 13 boatloads of asylum seekers between July 22, 1999 and October 2001.
A Turkish passport identifying him as Iman Dogan was seized and he was charged also with having a false document.
Asfoor has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and in the West Australian District Court yesterday Judge Michael O'Sullivan set November 3 as the start of Asfoor's five-week trial.
But Asfoor stood up and complained that by November he would have been in jail for two years.
'I am (already) waiting in the prison for 16 months,' Asfoor said.
'I want to know what is going,' he demanded.
'Are you so busy?'
Asfoor asked why he could not be tried next week.
Judge O'Sullivan told Asfoor his latest lawyer, Justine Fisher, had asked for the November date - which was about the earliest date a five-week trial could be accommodated by the courts.
Prosecutor Graeme Allan told Judge O'Sullivan a four or five-week trial was needed to accommodate more than 100 witnesses, more than half of whom would need interpreters.
Asfoor indicated at his first court appearance in 2001 he would fight the charges on the grounds that he was not a Palestinian smuggler, but Iman Dogan, a Turkish tourist.
The people smuggling charges against Asfoor include 13 counts of facilitating the bringing to Australia of a group of five or more unauthorised persons, and 48 counts of facilitating the bringing of named unlawful entrants.
The charges attract maximum fines of $220,000 and jail terms of up to 20 years.