Australia dragging feet on smuggler's extradition: JakartaBy Matthew Moore, Herald Correspondent in Jakarta
February 1 2003
Indonesia's Justice Minister says Australia has not seriously attempted to extradite the notorious people smuggler Abu Quassey, who organised a trip on which 353 people drowned, and believes there are major questions about the disaster it may not want answered.
The Minister for Justice and Human Rights, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, said Quassey, whose real name is Mootaz Muhammad Husan, will now be deported to his native Egypt.
Australia's Minister for Justice, Senator Chris Ellison, said this week that the Government was "pursuing all possible avenues to secure Quassey's prosecution" for people smuggling and for organising the overcrowded boat, known as SIEV-X, which sank in October 2001, killing mainly Iraqi and Afghan refugees.
In an interview with the Herald, Mr Yusril dismissed Senator Ellison's remarks and revealed areas of deep distrust between the two governments.
He said no Australian minister had been in direct contact about the matter and he was suspicious about the reasons why Canberra had not made a more determined effort to bring Quassey to Australia.
Asked why he believed the Howard Government might not want Quassey in Australia, he said: "I don't know ... I don't want to talk about it, I have a lot of intelligence reports but I don't want to talk. That's the big question for me."
Mr Yusril contrasted Australia's efforts to get hold of Quassey with those of Egypt.
"Australia's ambassador never talked to me about the case of Abu Quassey," he said.
"There is no official interest from [Australia's] Minister of Legals [Justice], no diplomatic note sent by the Australian Government to our Government, compared with the Egyptians.
"I think the Egyptian Government is more serious compared with the Australian Government regarding the case of Abu Quassey. That is my feeling."
The fight for Quassey has been under way since January 1 when he finished an eight-month prison sentence for visa offences he had been charged with in the absence of any Indonesian laws on people smuggling. For the past month he has been detained in an immigration centre in Jakarta while Indonesia decides his fate.
Mr Yusril said he had taken the matter to cabinet this week, and had also discussed it with President Megawati Soekarnoputri. Provided Egypt gave a written guarantee that it would prosecute Quassey, he would be deported to Cairo.
Egypt's ambassador to Indonesia, Ezzat Saad, said that guarantee was being prepared. .
Australia has said it cannot extradite Quassey because its extradition agreement with Indonesia only covers crimes common to both countries, and Indonesia has no offences for people smuggling.
Last month, Australia asked Indonesia for "legal co-operation" to jointly investigate Quassey under the same agreement used for the joint Bali bombing investigation. That could have paved the way for him to be sent to Australia, Mr Yusril said.
"Normally, after legal cooperation one country will ask for extradition. Even though the case of people smuggling is not covered by the existing treaty it is quite possible for the two countries to extradite one person like Abu Quassey to Australia."