'Chief' people-smuggler arrested
The Jakarta Post
Emmy Fitri
8 November 2001

Police have arrested an Egyptian here believed to have organized the voyage of the boat that sank in the Java Sea last month, killing more than 350 Middle Eastern asylum-seekers trying to enter Australia illegally, a police officer said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

National Police Deputy Spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Prasetyo said Egyptian Abu Quassey alias Abu Kazi alias Centin Kaya Nugun, whom Australian authorities have accused of being responsible for much of the human trafficking from the Middle East to Australia, was arrested on Sunday in Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java.

It is not clear if the police will extradite Abu Quassey to Australia, where he has been put on a wanted list for smuggling Middle Eastern migrants into Australia. Indonesia and Australia do have an extradition treaty between them.

Prasetyo said a police officer, identified as Brig. Agus Safuan, stationed in Lembang, West Java, and three Iraqis were also involved in smuggling activities.

"Police are now hunting down the three Iraqis," he said. It is not clear if the police officer Agus Safuan has been detained.

Prasetyo said Quassey was apprehended following testimonies from survivors of the ill-fated boat.

"They (the survivors) mentioned Quassey's name and also his accomplice, a local policeman. The two are now being grilled intensively here," he said referring to the National Police Headquarters.

"An investigation is being carried out by officers from the intelligence unit with assistance from the 44 survivors of the boat mishap," Prasetyo said.

According to Prasetyo, Middle Eastern people boarding the boat were transported in four buses from Bogor, West Java to Bakaheuni Port in Merak, Banten and then to Lampung. The convoy was tightly guarded by police officer Agus and several men wearing military-like battle fatigue uniforms.

In Lampung, the asylum-seekers stayed at the Amarta Agung Hotel in South Lampung for two days before they left for Australia aboard the leaky vessel.

Prasetyo refused to comment on suggestions that certain military personnel were involved in smuggling activities, saying: "We haven't reached that conclusion. Quassey and Agus are still being questioned. We hope to fish out more information from them so that we can arrest others who are involved."

Asked whether the police would deport Quassey to his country or process him under Indonesian law, Prasetyo said first he (Quassey) had to be questioned in accordance with local law but coordination with the immigration office was already arranged.

"We treat him as an ordinary suspect of a crime because he was arrested here for the crimes he committed here but we are also in coordination with the immigration office to determine further steps," Prasetyo told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview.

Quassey is being questioned for violating Law No 9/1992 on immigration which carries a maximum penalty of six years imprisonment and a Rp 30 million fine.

Australia has long urged Jakarta to crack down on human smugglers, but Indonesia had been reluctant until the October incident in which an overcrowded boat bound for Australia's Christmas Island sank off Java, killing more than 350 people.

The vast Indonesian archipelago is the staging post for many asylum-seekers -- mainly from the Middle East -- who try to reach Australia on leaky fishing boats organized by smugglers who make millions of dollars out of the trade.

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