New bid to get NZ refugee to trial

Tess Bennett
April 22, 2013 12:00AM

A REFUGEE living in New Zealand is facing renewed efforts to extradite him to Australia to face people-smuggling charges over the drowning deaths of 353 asylum-seekers in 2001.

It is alleged Iraqi-born Maythem Kamil Radhi was one of the organisers behind the voyage of Siev X, an overloaded and unseaworthy vessel that sank off the coast of Indonesia.

Officials estimated 146 children, 142 women and 65 men drowned when the 19m boat sank a day after sailing from Indonesia for Christmas Island with more than 400 passengers aboard.

Police allege Mr Radhi was in charge of passenger fares. He was granted UN refugee status before the sinking and has lived in New Zealand with his wife and children since 2009. His legal battle began in 2011 when the Brisbane Magistrates Court issued an arrest warrant for him.

In March last year a District Court judge in New Zealand ruled Mr Radhi could be arrested to face charges in Australia but that decision was overturned by the country's High Court judge Edwin Wylie in February. Justice Wylie said he did not meet the criteria for extradition because the alleged offence would not have been punishable by more than a year's imprisonment if it occurred in New Zealand at the time.

Under New Zealand law, an offence must carry a maximum penalty of at least a year's jail for the person to be eligible for extradition. At the time of the Siev X sinking, the maximum penalty for people-smuggling was three months' imprisonment. Under a law change last year, offenders now face up to 20 years in jail and a $NZ500,000 ($412,218) fine.

Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon, QC, told The New Zealand Herald she has applied to appeal against the High Court decision.



Back to