Iraqi faces 20 years in jail for people smuggling

By Johanna Leggatt

AN Iraqi man faces up to 20 years in jail after being found guilty of aiding a disastrous people-smuggling expedition to Australia during which 353 asylum seekers died.

Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 37, pleaded not guilty in the Supreme Court in Brisbane to two charges of people smuggling.

Daoed was found guilty today of helping to organise the SIEV X voyage, on which 353 people died and only 45 survived after the boat capsized near Indonesia in October 2001.

The former Baghdad goldsmith was found not guilty however of the first charge of helping to organise the Yambuck voyage that landed safely on Christmas Island in August 2001, carrying 147 people.

The jury took almost to two days to reach the verdict following a three-week trial laden with emotional testimonies from survivors.

Justice Philip McMurdo adjourned Daoed's sentence for a mention on June 24.

According to the prosecution, the charge of people smuggling carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

The trial was told Daoed was the "trusted assistant" of smuggling kingpin Abu Quassey in Indonesia.

Prosecutor Glen Rice told the court Daoed would promote Quassey's qualities as a smuggler and say he was a "good smuggler with good facilities".

"He (Quassey) was portrayed as 'one of the best and one of the cheapest and so on'," Mr Rice told the court.

Quassey was charged in Egypt with death through negligence over the SIEV X disaster and was sentenced to seven years in an Egyptian prison.

Daoed's trial heard that some asylum seekers refused to board the ship when they saw it, while others jumped off the crowded vessel and onto a fishing boat part way through the journey.

Witnesses told the court Daoed charged them up to $1300 for a seat on the crowded boat for a small family.

However, Daoed took the stand in the last week of the trial to reject the allegations, claiming he was not a smuggler but merely helping fellow Iraqis in Indonesia on humanitarian grounds.

He said this involved interpreting Quassey's Indonesian for the refugees and helping them find food and accommodation.

As an official UN refugee awaiting repatriation, Daoed alleged he was able to do the shopping and collect goods for the refugees, who were without his UN status.

Other witnesses in the trial testified the Indonesian Coastguard and police were involved in the smuggling operation.

One witness testified the coastguard was being paid-off in relation to the SIEV-X operation.

The trial proved harrowing for the survivors of the SIEV X - two of whom were transported to a Brisbane hospital when they collapsed after testifying.

Daoed was tried in Brisbane after being extradited in 2003 from Sweden by Australian Federal Police, who had worked with Swedish authorities on the case.


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