Govt. may extradite suspected people-smuggler to Eqypt instead of Australia
Jakarta Post
6 February 2003

JAKARTA (JP): The government turned down Australia's request to prosecute a suspected people-smuggler in the country, as it planned to send him back home to Eqypt.

Justice and Human Rights Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra said on Tuesday that the government intended to extradite Egyptian Mootaz Attia Muhammad Hasan, alias Abu Quassey, to Egypt if the country guaranteed to prosecute him on people-smuggling charges.

"We don't intend to extradite him to Australia as his home country is Egypt," he said, adding that his office had invited officials of the Egyptian Embassy in Jakarta to discuss the matter on Thursday.

Yusril said that Australian Ambassador to Indonesia David Ritchie had met him several times to discuss the matter.

"A country must extradite a citizen of a particular country to his home country," said Yusril, who was apparently still disappointed at his office's inability to bring the late fugitive banker Hendra Rahardja from Australia to Indonesia.

Indonesia has repeatedly asked Australia to extradite Hendra, who is sentenced to life imprisonment over embezzlement of Rp 2.7 trillion in state funds. However, Australia rejected the call,saying that Hendra had to be tried for an immigration offense. Hendra died recently of cancer in Australia, leaving the government with the task of tracing his assets there.

Yusril said that should Egypt not be able to guarantee to prosecute Quassey, he would be charged with document forgery under Indonesian jurisdiction.

Quassey has been accused in relation to a voyage in October 2001 in which 353 asylum seekers, mostly Afghans and Iraqis, drowned when their overcrowded vessel heading to Australia sank off Indonesian waters.

He was later sentenced to six months imprisonment over visa violation as Indonesia has no legislation in place on people- smuggling. Quassey, 29, completed the jail sentence last month, but is still under detention at the immigration quarantine center in Tangerang. He reportedly used forged documents to live in Indonesia.

On Wednesday, AFP reported that Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison said his country intended to extradite him to Australia to face Australian justice.

Quassey is suspected of being involved in people-smuggling from Indonesia since early 2000, first as a provider of passengers to other organizers in Indonesia and then organizing trips himself.

Indonesia has been used as a transit point for Middle Eastern and Afghan asylum seekers trying to reach Australia.

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