Egyptian jailed for deaths of 353 boatpeople

ABC website
Saturday, December 27, 2003. 11:56pm (AEDT)

A Cairo criminal court has jailed an Egyptian national for seven years after finding him guilty of manslaughter of 353 suspected illegal immigrants off Australia in 2001.

Court officials say Moataz Attiya Mohamed Hassan was sentenced to five years for "homicide through negligence" and another two for aiding illegal migration.

The 37-year-old was extradited to Cairo from Indonesia in April.

Australia diplomat Bruce Lenden told the court during the trial that the Australian Government had wanted to try him as the crime took place in its territorial waters, but Indonesia turned down the request.

The court heard that Hassan charged 400 asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, $US1,000 each to be taken to find work in Australia.

He placed them in an unsuitable vessel which foundered in high winds, leading to the deaths of the 353, the court heard.

In October, the prosecution demanded that Hassan be convicted of premeditated murder and face the maximum penalty of death, but murder charges were never pressed.

The defence said it would appeal the verdict. [emphasis added]

Hassan's lawyers argued he had only served as an interpreter for the real culprit in the deaths.

They identified him as Khaled Sherif, an Iraqi national arrested in Sweden and extradited to Australia.



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