RI caught between Egypt and Australia
Fabiola Desy Unidjaja
Jakarta Post
7 February 2003

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The local legal system does not allow Indonesia to extradite to Australia an Egyptian charged by the neighboring country with people-smuggling, says Indonesian justice minister.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said on Thursday the extradition treaty between Indonesia and Australia did not cover people-smuggling, the charge leveled at Moataz Attia Mohamed Hassan alias Abu Quassey.

"Quassey is not an Australian national and the charge is not considered a crime under our Criminal Code," Yusril said before a Cabinet meeting at the State Palace.

Five Australian legal experts met Yusril on Wednesday to ask that Quassey be handed over to Australia.

Following Australia's demand for extradition of Quassey, Egypt requested on Thursday that Quassey be deported. During his meeting with Yusril earlier on Thursday, the Egyptian Ambassador to Indonesia Ezzat Saad El Sayed said Quassey could be tried in his home country for alleged people-smuggling, provided that the Australian authorities could present sufficient evidence.

The Egyptian Embassy said in its statement issued on Thursday that Australia had no legal grounds to ask for Quassey to be tried there.

Yusril said the Egyptian Penal Code could ensnare its citizens who commit crimes overseas, but does not cover people-smuggling.

He added that the Egyptian justice ministry would send an expert to Jakarta to brief him on the issue.

The minister, however, underlined that Indonesia has not officially responded to the requests from either the Australian or Egyptian authorities for the handover of Quassey.

"Our decision will be in the best interests of the nation. So far, we have not decided whether to deport him to Australia or Egypt."

Quassey is wanted in Australia over the voyage in October 2001 during which 353 people, most of them Afghans and Iraqis, drowned when their overcrowded vessel sank in the Indian Ocean.

The Egyptian is currently in the immigration detention center after serving a six-month prison term for visa violations. He is being questioned over additional charges of counterfeiting an Indonesian identity card for himself, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of 30 months imprisonment.

Australian police have issued international arrest warrants for Abu Quassey on 76 offenses relating to attempts to bring people into Australia unlawfully. If sent to Australia, he could receive a 20-year prison sentence.

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