Smugglers met navy officer, court told

By Marian Wilkinson National Security Editor
May 19, 2005

The top people smuggler who organised the fateful voyage of SIEV X from Indonesia ate breakfast with a senior naval officer in the Indonesian coast guard not long before the boat sailed, an Iraqi refugee told Brisbane Supreme Court yesterday.

Karim Al-Saaedy said he and several other Iraqi refugees who had paid two assistants to the people smuggler Abu Quassey for a passage to Australia were asked to join him for breakfast at an elite Jakarta hotel in October 2001. There Abu Quassey introduced them to the Indonesian coast guard officer in charge of Sumatra, the island where the SIEV X would set out on its voyage before capsizing, drowning 353 asylum seekers.

"This officer is in charge of the coast and the Indonesian police are with us. Just give us some time and, God willing, we will be moving," Abu Quassey had said, according to Mr Saaedy.

Mr Saaedy's testimony came on the second day of the trial of the man accused of acting as Abu Quassey's assistant, Khaleed Shanayf Daoed, who is facing two counts of aiding a people-smuggling operation.

Earlier, Mr Saaedy told counsel for the prosecution, Glen Rice, that he had telephoned Abu Quassey in Jakarta and asked him for a place on a boat to Australia for him and his son. After ascertaining he could afford the price, he said Abu Quassey gave him the telephone numbers for Daoed and his Iraqi colleague and they all met in a coffee shop opposite the United Nations offices in Jakarta.

They told him Abu Quassey's boat would be good and he could check on the internet to confirm he had already been successful in sending a people-smuggling boat to Christmas Island.

After paying a deposit, Mr Saaedy said, he and his son spent weeks moving hotels and travelling to the coast of Sumatra.

Finally, he said, they arrived at a hotel on the coast where Daoed and Abu Quassey told them they would board the boat for Australia.

Mr Saaedy, who had come from Finland to give evidence in the case, was overcome with emotion when he began describing the night he and his son boarded the SIEV X. He said he saw Abu Quassey, Daoed and another Iraqi come to the hotel with armed Indonesian police dressed in uniform. More than 400 refugees who were waiting at the hotel were warned not to speak as they were moved by bus and truck to what he said looked like a naval building at a marina.

"Those people who were wearing uniforms were police," he told the court.

Mr Saaedy began to describe being taken in a motor boat with Abu Quassey out to the SIEV X but he broke down in the witness box as recalled his shock at seeing the small, overcrowded people-smuggling boat.

"The boat was the opposite of what they described," he said, describing how one family had jumped overboard when they saw the conditions on board. He said Daoed and Abu Quassey refused to let people turn back when they saw the SIEV X, which had been hidden in the darkness.

Mr Saaedy, who lost his son when the SIEV X capsized, buried his face in his hand before dropping his head onto the witness table and weeping. Judge Phil McMurdo adjourned the case for the remainder of the day after being told the witness was in "a fragile state of mind".

The case continues.


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