Govt says it cannot stop people smuggler's release
30 December 2002 4:17 PM AEDT

The Federal Government says it cannot stop the Indonesian Government releasing a man wanted over a people smuggling racket and the deaths of hundreds of asylum seekers.

An Egyptian national, Abu Quassey, is accused of arranging the doomed SIEV X voyage in which 353 people drowned.

He is due to be released this Wednesday from a Jakarta prison after serving time for unrelated immigration offences.

Justice Minister Senator Chris Ellison says the Indonesian Government understands Australia's concerns and has signalled it will deport Mr Quassey.

"Well, should the Indonesians deport him on the first of January, which it looks like as though that will happen, then of course, that opens up a whole range of options," Senator Ellison said.

"But I can't canvass what options we will be pursuing - that would be signalling our shots to Abu Quassey and I'm not prepared to do that.

"But should he go elsewhere then we have a red alert with Interpol and that involves over 170 countries internationally," Senator Ellison said.

The Australian Democrats are calling on the Federal Government to pressure Indonesia to charge Abu Qassey with mass manslaughter.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have issued warrants for Quassy's arrest, but Democrats leader Senator Andrew Bartlett says because people smuggling is not a crime in Indonesia he cannot be extradited.

"Australia may not be able to charge him with manslaughter but we can certainly work with Indonesia to ensure that he is charged with something in Indonesia in the same way that we have worked very effectively, constructively and quickly in relation to bringing many people to justice over the bali bombings," Senator Bartlett said.

"We could easily ensure the same is done with this person and in doing so find out information about other people involved in this particular crime."

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