RI considers extraditing Abu Quassey to Australia

Friday, November 09, 2001
Tiarma Siboro and Fabiola Desy Unidjaja
The Jakarta Post

Jakarta: Indonesian ministers have expressed mixed opinions on the possibility of extraditing to Australia an Egyptian people-smuggling suspect whose boat sank in the Java Sea last month carrying an estimated 400 asylum seekers.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said on Thursday that Indonesia would not extradite Abu Quassey, who is believed to have organized the boat's voyage to Australia. Quassey, currently being questioned by police, was arrested in Bandung on Sunday.

"There is no international law stipulating that a citizen of a country who has committed a crime in a second country can then be extradited to a third country," Yusril said.

Canberra has asked Indonesia to clamp down on people-smuggling syndicates believed to be operating throughout the archipelago, following a spate of mishaps in its waters involving overloaded ships.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hasan Wirayuda said that Indonesia would consider Quassey's extradition.

"We are waiting for a formal request from the Australian government," Susilo said, as quoted by AP.

The Australian Embassy in Jakarta said no request had been made at this stage.

Hasan said that the government would determine whether a possible extradition of Quassey to Australia was included in an extradition agreement between the two countries.

Yusril said Indonesia's reluctance to extradite him was retaliation for Australia's refusal to extradite Hendra Rahardja, a suspect in the mismanagement of Rp 3.6 trillion (US$360 million) in Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI) funds.

"We have been seeking his extradition for two years but the response has always been that the case is being processed by the Australian Supreme Court," he said at his office.

Yusril said the extradition of Hendra was important to Indonesia's campaign against corruption.

"If Australia cannot extradite Hendra Rahardja to Indonesia, how can we extradite our citizens, as well as Abu Quassey?" Yusril asked.

Quassey's boat is believed to have carried some 400 asylum seekers, 350 of whom perished at sea, with the intention of illegally entering Australia.

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.

Yusril said that police have arrested a number of other people in Bali, Lampung and East Nusa Tenggara, who are suspected of involvement in people-smuggling.

Along with the Attorney General's Office, police are gathering evidence and preparing an indictment prior to taking the case to court.

"Our criminal court does not specifically cover people-smuggling, but judges can extend the interpretation of the penal code to cover this case because we recognize the principle that judges have the authority to extend implementation of the law.

"So, don't worry about it. We know that the Australian public is worried about whether we have a law that specifically stipulates people-smuggling, but we can categorize it as a general criminal offense," Yusril said.

In a related development, authorities arrested another suspect in the West Kalimantan town of Singkawang on Thursday, AFP reported.

Ahmad Muhammad Yusuf, 25, an Afghani, was caught trying to assist two Iraqi men abscond from a refugee shelter in the town, head of the immigration office's criminal division, Muhammad Indra, said.

"He admitted to us that he was paid by a relative of one of the two men. He also admitted having plans to smuggle the two men into Australia," Indra told a media briefing in Singkawang.

One of the refugees had been apprehended while the other was still at large, he added.

Thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East, use Indonesia as a stepping stone to reach Australia, entrusting their lives to people-smugglers who often use dilapidated and overloaded boats.

Indonesian Navy chief of staff Admiral Indroko Sastrowiryono said last week that every refugee boat encountered in Indonesian waters should be allowed to continue on to its destination.

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