Indonesian soldier jailed for people-smuggling

From: AAP
September 24, 2012 3:50PM

AN Indonesian army officer who arranged a boat that sank last year en route to Australia, killing 200 people, has been jailed for six years for people-smuggling.

Sergeant Ilmun Abdul Said, who has been linked with people-smuggling boss Sayed Abbas, admitted playing a key role in sending at least seven boats and close to 1000 asylum seekers to Christmas Island.

The last venture in which Ilmun was involved ended in tragedy when a rickety boat packed with about 250 asylum-seekers foundered in heavy seas off the coast of East Java near Prigi Beach on December 17 last year.

As many as 200 Iranian and Afghan asylum-seekers, including women and children, drowned. Just 49 people were pulled from the water alive.

Ilmun played a key role in the people-smuggling operation, allegedly led by Abbas, including providing advice about which ports the boats should embark from in order to avoid detection.

He is the first member of the Indonesian Military (TNI) to be prosecuted under Indonesia's anti-people smuggling laws, which came into force in March 2011.

People-smuggling carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail in Indonesia.

However, a panel of judges at the Madiun Military Court in East Java today sentenced Ilmun to six years in jail, well short of what prosecutors had demanded.

Prosecutors had called for Ilmun to be jailed for at least eight years.

He was also fined RP500 million ($50,000), which can be exchanged for an extra two months in jail.

He will also be discharged from the army.

Ilmun has admitted accepting more than $80,000 for helping to arrange the passage of seven boats.

The money is a fortune compared with his annual salary of about RP25 million ($2,500).

But it is a fraction of what the people-smuggling syndicate he was working for was extracting from asylum-seekers, who paid between $5000 and $10,000 to make the perilous journey to Australia.

The kingpin of the syndicate, named in court by several witnesses as Abbas, is believed to have raked in close to $2 million from the boat which sank on December 17.

Ilmun recruited other soldiers to help with the operation and was responsible for buying the boats that would be used, which in most cases were far from seaworthy.

Another four members of the TNI are facing charges over the people-smuggling operation.

Abbas, who is wanted for extradition by Australian authorities, is serving a jail term for immigration offences.

It remains unclear whether Indonesian authorities will seek to charge him in relation to the boat that sank last December.

The Indonesian government earlier this month gave assurances to Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare that Abbas would be extradited as soon as his current sentence ends, which is expected to be early next year.



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