Wife lost in SIEV-X disaster
By Ainsley Pavey
21 July 2004
AN Iraqi man told today how he struggled for hours in rough seas, fearing his daughter was dead on his back, after their illegal vessel sank off Christmas Island.
In fact Sadeq Razaq Toullah Al-Abodie managed to save his two-year-old daughter, but his wife was among 353 asylum seekers who died in the sinking of the SIEV-X in October 2001, he told a court today.
Appearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court was Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 37, who is facing a preliminary hearing on 12 charges of people smuggling, which carry a maximum 20 year jail term.
Commonwealth prosecutors have accused Mr Daoed of helping to organise the fatal trip from Indonesia with convicted smuggler Abu Quassey, who is in an Egyptian jail, and a third man known as "Mathem".
Mr Al-Abodie, who has since settled in Finland, said he and his daughter, together with 43 others, were saved when plucked from the sea by fishing boats.
His wife had urged him to take care of their daughter after the family was thrust into the sea with life jackets on.
He lost sight of his wife in the waves, and never saw her again.
"I had my daughter on my shoulders for two days, I thought she was dead but I was told by others that she was alive," Mr Al-Abodie told the court.
He said frightened passengers aboard the doomed boat had desperately tried to get the captain to turn back, even taking up a collection to pay him at one point as water flooded the vessel.
The boat was low in the water from the weight of passengers when it set sail from Indonesia in the middle of the night and was taking on water by morning, the court heard.
Passengers had been crammed on board at gunpoint by armed Indonesian soldiers and forced to crouch because there was not enough room to sit, Mr Al-Abodie said.
The vessel sailed between two islands but the skipper was worried about landing and facing the police.
Some of the asylum seekers tried to use a satellite phone to call the smugglers but it would not work, Mr Al-Abodie said.
He also told the court some passengers were forced to sit on top of the captain's quarters, on the boat's engine and chimney.
Up to 11 witnesses are set to give evidence over the next three days of hearings before Brisbane Magistrate Barbara Tynan.