Canberra to chase accused people-smuggler
By Patrick Walters, Jakarta
The Australian
1 January 2003

ABU Quassey, the people-smuggler alleged to have masterminded the October 2001 voyage of Siev X in which 353 people drowned, will face deportation after his release from Jakarta's Cipinang prison this morning, Indonesian authorities say.

Quassey, an Egyptian national, will be transferred to an immigration detention centre in the Indonesian capital after being jailed for visa violations.

Indonesian officials said yesterday there was no possibility Quassey would walk free. He is expected to be deported to Egypt.

A worldwide Interpol red alert has been issued for Quassey, also known as Mootaz Attia Mohammad Hasan, whom the Australian Government wants extradited on people-smuggling charges.

But while Canberra may be able to track Quassey's movements when he leaves Indonesia, bringing him to justice will depend on his transit through countries with which Australia has extradition agreements.

In East Asia, Australia has extradition agreements covering people-smuggling with Thailand and Hong Kong. Bangkok is where Australian officials hope Quassey could be arrested.

An Interpol alert will not guarantee Quassey's arrest. Without an extradition agreement, his arrest would depend on a warrant being issued by authorities of the country in which he is domiciled. [emphasis added]

The Australian Federal Police wants to detain Quassey on a raft of offences relating to people-smuggling dating from 2000. They have issued a number of arrest warrants for Quassey for the offences, which under Australian law carry penalties of up to 20 years in jail.

While Canberra has been careful not to bring diplomatic pressure to bear in the Quassey case, officials are hopeful he will be arrested once he leaves Indonesia. [emphasis added]

Justice Minister Chris Ellison pledged this week the Government would be relentless in its pursuit of Quassey.

Senator Ellison said Canberra had considered extraditing Quassey on murder charges, but could not establish whether Siev-X sank in international or Indonesian waters. [emphasis added]

Quassey is believed to have made millions of dollars from a people-smuggling racket orchestrated from Indonesia.

The Siev-X voyage took more than 400 mostly Iraqi and Afghan asylum-seekers in a leaky wooden boat down the Sunda strait and into the Indian Ocean, where the overcrowded vessel foundered. Only 44 people survived.

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