Media reports about asylum seeker travel brokers
Image: thanks to Peter Nicholson Cartoons
The sheer discordant shrillness of Europe's pretty little Switserland and its self-declared "neutrality" during WWII still reverberates in today's world affairs.
It took Switserland almost seventy years to decriminalise 137 individuals who helped Jews with their clandestine border crossings out of Nazi Germany.
Important lessons can be learnt from such criminalisation when thinking about those who assist asylum seekers to reach Australia; perhaps the first true-ism is that 'the criminalisation of those we call people smugglers is a construction by Australian political elites'.
Australia is indeed "the lucky country": while the rest of the world struggles with the presence of tens of thousands of "illicit migrants", "smuggled migrants" or "trafficked migrants" - women as well as men and children - the problem of human smuggling to Australia is limited to the "bringing of asylum seekers". And, it pays to remember that no "smuggling" takes place between Indonesia and Australia.
The boats simply bring asylum seekers to the region of Australia's "refugee prison" on Christmas Island so they can (as Article 31 of the United Nations Refugee Convention states) "present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence".
Of course Australian politicians won't tell you this: when they talk about asylum seekers arriving by boat their story contains 99 per cent rhetoric and 1 per cent fact, and most political talk about refugees contains 99 per cent poison and 1 per cent healthy reason.
This page stores - or 'parks', for referencing purposes - a number of media reports about the 'organisers' or 'people smugglers' in Indonesia. The reports, posted in chronological order, are not all related to each other; and as they are media reports, they do not deconstruct the prevailing Australian political rhetoric or the inherent prevailing media bias. In order to provide some contrast, the page starts with the report from Switserland.
16 April 2011: Island boys and Indonesian smuggling laws - Why did Indonesia formulate their anti-people smuggling laws? A massive political campaign has long told Australians that people smugglers are evil, that they are the scum of the earth, that they run a vile industry. That campaign has run in tandem with one convincing us that those sailing to Australia are 'illegal immigrants', 'queue jumpers' or 'economic forumshoppers'.
1 April 2010: Is Mr Hadi Ahmadi a people smuggler or escape organiser? - Mr Hadi Ahmadi assisted in bringing four boats to Australia. His passengers were not 'illegal immigrants' but asylum seekers: of the 900 passengers, no less than 866 were declared genuine refugees once their claims were processed. That's a success rate of 97%. Does that make him a people smuggler or a UN Convention enabler - or an "escape organiser"?
2 March 2010: To Catch a People Smuggler, to Wade through Brine of Spin - Anyone who tries "to catch a people smuggler" needs to first peel off the many layers of spin and labelling. This page, primarily about 'Captain Bram', one of the Australian government's "notorious" people-smugglers, wonders why he has not been extradited to Australia.
18 May 2009: Kevin Rudd's vile band of people smugglers - Kevin Rudd, with his media remarks, had escalated the issue of people smuggling, and remarkably, a crack appeared in their vileness. For the first time in Australian history, media opinion started to turn against his line, and reporters and opinion writers started to open the issue and, almost unaware of it, started to 'humanise' people smugglers. Thank you, Prime Minister!
:::UPDATED Febr 2008:::: 26 September 2007: Oskar Schindler and the people smuggler - Under Australia's interpretation of what constitutes a 'people smuggler', the young man who sold the donkey to Joseph and Mary would be prosecuted and imprisoned by law ... So would the priest who helped the Von Trapp family ... this page is about Ali Al Jenabi, one of those people smugglers.
Click the links below to jump down to the articles and items on this page with the same title.
Government commission clears names of 137 punished for smuggling Jewish refugees across borders between 1938 and 1945.
By The Associated Press
Published 14:32 29.12.11
Latest update 14:32 29.12.11
A Swiss government commission is drawing to a close after clearing the names of 137 people judged to be criminals because they helped Jews escape Nazi persecution during World War II.
The commission was set up at the start of 2004 to use a new law on "rehabilitation."
The law allowed for posthumous recognition of people unfairly criminalized under Swiss laws on neutrality because they smuggled Jewish refugees across borders between 1938 and 1945.
Some were jailed or fined, and many lost jobs.
The commission, mandated to end in 2011, said its aim was to repair the damage caused by a "grave injustice" of history.
Only one person, Aimee Stitelman of Geneva, lived long enough to see her name cleared in 2004, and died months later.
AAP / news.com.au
June 17, 2011 3:57PM
A man jailed for people smuggling acted out of humanitarian necessity to save asylum seekers in Indonesia from "imminent peril", his lawyer has told appeal court judges in Perth.
Lawyer Jonathan Davies is seeking leave to appeal against the conviction of dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen Hadi Ahmadi.
Ahmadi was the first person extradited from Indonesia to Australia in May 2009 on people-smuggling charges after an agreement was struck between Canberra and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The 35-year-old was sentenced in September last year to seven and a half years in jail on two counts of illegally assisting asylum seekers reach Australia on two boats in 2001.
Ahmadi, who has been recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commission for Refugees, twice tried to reach Australia by boat himself, but engine failure and a storm foiled those attempts.
He then began assisting people smugglers in Jakarta, finding accommodation for asylum seekers, collecting fees and taking them by bus to beaches where boats were waiting to take them to Australian waters.
Before three Court of Appeal judges in Perth on Friday, Mr Davies said Ahmadi had acted out of a "cultural sense of honour" to assist other asylum seekers who faced imminent danger in Indonesia at the time.
He said that in 2001, asylum seekers lived in constant fear of being deported from Indonesia back to their own home countries in the Middle East where they could face persecution and "mortal danger".
Mr Davies said such people felt they were "in imminent peril" and this put Ahmadi in a position where he had to ask himself whether he had an obligation to help them.
"There's no suggestion he profited personally."
Mr Davies said his client was the son of a prominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric who had taken his family to Iran to avoid persecution but was later killed in 1992 during a resistance movement against the Iraqi regime.
He said Ahmadi's state of mind was shaped by his father's stance and that informed his actions in Indonesia.
"This man acted out of humanitarian motives," Mr Davies said.
Justice Carmel McLure observed that the case being put by Mr Davies rested on whether a "breach of the law is justified by the defence of necessity".
The judges noted that the issue also revolved on whether asylum seekers in Indonesia really were in "imminent peril" and in need of urgent assistance.
They reserved their decision on the appeal application.
In sentencing Ahmadi in September, District Court Judge Andrew Stavrianou said he had to give him a jail term that would deter other people smugglers from trying to bring people to Australia illegally.
Rory Callinan and Peter Alford
June 30, 2011 12:00AM
Two of the people-smugglers most wanted by Australia are back in business in Jakarta, operating openly and living high after being arrested on immigration charges and quietly released during the past 12 months.
The pair's people-smuggling syndicates are among at least four groups sending boats to Australia, despite more than $60 million of Australian taxpayers' money having been spent to plug the illegal pipeline through Indonesia and the recent criminalisation of the trade in Indonesia.
The main operators identified during an investigation by The Australian of syndicates smuggling mostly ethnic Hazara people from Afghanistan and Pakistan are Afghans Sayed Abbas Azzadon and Sajjad Hussain Noor.
Since May 7, when Julia Gillard announced Canberra's proposed deal with Kuala Lumpur for sending newly arrived asylum-seekers to Malaysia and the back of the refugee queue, 340 passengers have arrived in Australia on seven boats. Four boats carrying 233 passengers have got through in the past month and at least two attempts, involving more than 90 asylum-seekers, have been foiled by boat failure and arrests.
The Australian's month-long investigation has revealed that people-smugglers do not feel threatened by the Australian government's Malaysian solution.
Using information from a former Australian Federal Police informant and law-enforcement sources, and after observing the two main Afghan operations, The Australian believes the syndicates are organising to transport more than 130 asylum-seekers. Small groups of asylum-seekers have been moving from Malaysia to Jakarta in the past week.
However, the smuggling ventures have been made far more difficult recently by AFP disruption of operations, the increased effectiveness of the Indonesian national police and growing suspicion in coastal communities of smugglers' agents and their customers.
The Australian has information that a group of 36 people arrested on Madura Island on June 19 were part of a consignment organised by Abbas.
The revelations come as the Gillard government faces criticism for spending vast amounts of money trying to impose mandatory five-year sentences on poor Indonesian fisherman who crew smugglers' boats and some of whom are teenagers.
The Australian has obtained pictures of a boat bought in Bali for a pending operation.
Until March, Abbas, 29, was in custody while Australian and Indonesian authorities worked to finalise his extradition. It is understood the Attorney-General's Department has been told he was given bail. Now he is out, active and a frequent visitor to Jakarta's Stadium nightclub - the scene of his arrest on May 11 last year - and nightspots around Kebon Sirih, Jakarta's people-smuggling quarter.
Abbas's bitter business rival, Sajjad, was released in November while Australia was trying to extradite him, as was Amanullah Rezaie, another Afghan and a long-term smuggling agent, last July.
The Australian authorities are understood to have been told by the Indonesians that Sajjad and Rezaie were also now on bail. However, Chairijah, director of the Justice Ministry's international law division told The Australian all three men should still be in custody.
"They don't have passports, they cannot go anywhere and because they are still in the legal process, they are under supervision," Ms Chairijah said.
She said Abbas was appealing his case to the Supreme Court and Sajjad was "still in court". The extradition process for Rezaie had to "start again from the beginning", she said, because of "mistakes with names".
"These people have lots of aliases," she said. "We are waiting for the right information from the Australians."
Of the four suspects sought for extradition by Australia - all of whom have been arrested on immigration charges - only Haji Sakhi is behind bars. Sakhi, alias Zamin Ali, a Pakistani, was sentenced to two years' jail last month.
Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor said last night Australian law enforcement agencies had "taken action in relation to allegations of people-smuggling by these men by seeking their extradition to face people-smuggling charges under Australian law". He noted the granting of bail was a matter for the Indonesian courts: "I am grateful for Indonesia's assistance in these matters to date and I look forward to these matters continuing to progress.
"I also note and welcome that the Indonesian parliament recently introduced laws to criminalise people-smuggling."
Another notorious operator, Ali Cobra, also known as Labasa Ali, was released from jail on May 3 and is understood to be back at his home base in Makassar.
Cobra served 22 months of a 36-month sentence for organising an asylum-seekers' breakout from the Kupang detention centre.
Canberra did not seek Cobra's extradition, probably because there was no prospect of Jakarta sending one of its citizens to face an Australian court over people-smuggling, which, until the law was altered in April, was not a criminal matter in Indonesia.
Hadi Ahmadi, an Iraqi-Iranian middleman who last September was sentenced to 7 1/2 years' jail in a Perth court for offences a decade ago, is the only people-smuggler extradited by Indonesia so far.
Australian passport-holder Ali Khorram Heydarkhani was deported last month to face 89 charges in Sydney over the SIEV-221 tragedy in December, when up to 50 people died after their boat smashed on Christmas Island.
Ms Chairijah refused to acknowledge that Sajjad, Abbas or Rezaie were not in custody.
"If there's any proof where they are or what they are doing, tell us, so we can process," she said.
She confirmed Australian officials had complained about Abbas being free.
When The Australian asked the chief of Indonesia's national police's anti-people-smuggling taskforce, Budi Santoso, why the three suspects were set free while being sought by Australia, he said "busy" and put down his phone.
Agung Dabar Santoso, the director of the trans-national crime unit, did not respond to a message asking the same question.
The AFP, which has a number of officers in Indonesia to combat people-smuggling, referred all comment to the federal Attorney-General's Department or "appropriate Indonesian authorities".
The Attorney-General's Department last week confirmed it was seeking to extradite Abbas, Sajjad and Rezaie from Indonesia. A spokeswoman said the individuals had "been provisionally arrested in Indonesia in response to extradition requests made by Australia". However, earlier this month, The Australian watched Abbas doing the rounds of coffee shops, restaurants and nightclubs, and meeting associates.
At the same time, Sajjad was busy conducting meetings across central Jakarta, although he is more careful about being seen publicly since his arrest. Rezaie recently had a house in the Bogor-Puncak area, about 60km south of Jakarta, the traditional hub of the people-smuggling business.
Brendan Nicholson and Peter Alford
July 1, 2011 12:00AM
People-smugglers back in business and living the high life in Indonesia after being quietly released from jail are thumbing their noses at Australia and signalling "you can't touch us", says opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison.
Mr Morrison said The Australian's investigation raised many issues. "It was breathtakingly confronting," he said.
The Australian revealed yesterday that two of the smugglers most wanted by Australia, Sayed Abbas and Sajjad Hussain Noor, were back in business in Jakarta, having been released after their arrests on immigration charges. The pair's syndicates are among at least four groups sending boats to Australia.
"Clearly, the people-smugglers do not feel that their business model is under any threat from the Gillard Labor government," Mr Morrison said.
"The brazen way in which they continue to conduct themselves in Indonesia, released from prison, out on the town, arranging their next million-dollar transfer, I think says very clearly what their response is to this announcement nine weeks ago from the government on Malaysia."
A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the granting of bail to suspects Australia was seeking to extradite was a matter for Indonesian courts.
Indonesian officials met yesterday's revelations with a wall of silence. Chairijah, the Justice Ministry's director of international law, was unavailable for comment.
Ms Chairijah challenged The Australian last week to show that Abbas, Sajjad and Amanullah Rezaie, the other suspect who Australia wanted extradited, were not in custody.
The chief of the national police's anti-people-smuggling taskforce, Colonel Budi Santoso, did not respond to a request to discuss the situation, and nor did his superior, Brigadier General Agung Sabar Santoso.
The Immigration Department's investigations director, Husin Alaydrus, said from Singapore he could not comment.
By yesterday evening there had not been a response from the Foreign Ministry's spokesman.
Australians would be grossly offended by the smugglers' behaviour, Mr Morrison said.
"They were essentially thumbing their noses at the Australian government saying, 'Look at us. You can't touch us'."
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said boat arrivals had slowed considerably.
Rory Callinan and Debbie Guest
September 20, 2011 12:00AM
An alleged corrupt relationship involving a top Indonesian military figure, Indonesian people-smugglers and local police is being kept secret via a series of suppression orders in the West Australian courts that have been endorsed by the commonwealth.
Exact details of the identity of the military figure and the alleged improper dealings, which have been described as having the potential to have an impact on Australia's diplomatic ties with Indonesia, were initially raised but then suppressed during the Perth District Court trial of dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen Hadi Ahmadi on people-smuggling charges.
Ahmadi was later sentenced to 7 1/2 years and is appealing against his conviction. The allegations may re-emerge should the appeal succeed.
They raise questions about the commitment and ability of Indonesian authorities to combat people-smuggling operations.
Despite Ahmadi's trial occurring last year, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said lifting the suppression orders was something that only the court could consider.
The suppressions were introduced when Ahmadi's defence counsel Jonathan Davies last year sought to raise questions about protection of asylum-seekers and smuggling in Indonesia.
Mr Davies had sought to prove that people-smugglers had needed a significant level of protection and relied upon this individual.
The day after the person was named, prosecution counsel Ron Davies QC told presiding District Court judge Andrew Stavrianou that the Australian Federal Police were concerned about public interest if corruption issues were canvassed.
Judge Stavrianou then suppressed the name of the military figure and Ahmadi's counsel did not object.
Later that day, the AFP's counsel, Jeremy Allanson SC, sought further suppression orders, this time in relation to information that, he said, among other issues, had "the potential firstly to damage the relationship between Australia and Indonesia".
In arguing this point, Jonathan Davies said: "We would seek to ventilate the idea that a figure of -- I'll describe him as a figure of great power and influence in the Republic of Indonesia -- allowed these illegal activities described by the witnesses to go on under an aegis of protection.
"And that is important for us, to show why it is, apparently, we have people moving about Indonesia with impunity, with asylum-seekers moving onto buses and using public transport and so on."
Mr Davies argued the fact that asylum-seekers had to rely on such corrupt individuals proved their lives were in serious danger. "And so that is why it is necessary that this jury know about that."
Jonathan Davies argued there were individuals who were "complicit in this particular umbrella of protection that subsisted in Indonesia in this particular period, and unfortunately they are connected even higher up the food chain . . . to quite a distressing level."
He sought a concession from the prosecution to agree that this type of arrangement existed, saying "as the federal police well know, these matters were able to go on unimpeded for so long."
However, Ron Davies, for the prosecution, declined to agree to any concession.
"The assertion that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions well knows that to be so is not correct," he said.
"There is no concession that I am either in possession of information to make or prepared to even consider."
Jonathan Davies was asked to liaise with his AFP counterpart about the issues.
The following day the court was closed as a result of public interest immunity issues, effectively suppressing the detail of the corruption. Jonathan Davies declined to comment.
A CDPP spokeswoman said: "Suppression orders in the matter of Hadi Ahmadi were properly made by the court after considering the relevant factors. Court orders are a matter for the court."
An AFP spokeswoman said suppression orders were court-ordered documents and it would be unlawful to provide any information on them. She said the AFP had no authority over the application or removal of suppression orders or for the release of court ordered suppressed documents.
October 19, 2011 12:00AM
Indonesian police have arrested Sajjad Hussain Noor, an alleged people-smuggling kingpin sought for extradition by the Australian government to face serious charges.
Sajjad, aged about 27, was arrested by the Indonesian national police's anti-people-smuggling taskforce on Monday night, along with two other suspects.
Sajjad is suspected of running one of the main people-smuggling operations out of Indonesia and, since the arrest of his rival, Sayed Abbas, in August, has been the Australian authorities' prime target. As of last night, there was no official confirmation of the arrest from Jakarta or Canberra.
The head of the Indonesian police taskforce Budi Santoso said yesterday he was away from head office, engaged in another matter. A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said: "It is inappropriate to comment, as it is a matter for the Indonesian authorities."
The Australian understands Sajjad was arrested during the taskforce's investigation of a smuggling operation involving about 80 Afghan and Iranian asylum-seekers.
Sajjad is an ethnic Hazara whose family is from Afghanistan and who came to Indonesia from Quetta, Pakistan, in 2001 seeking a boat passage to Australia.
He was arrested on smuggling-related immigration charges in October 2009 but freed on bail last November.
Abbas, another Hazara, was also in custody and under investigation for immigration offences but he was bailed in March. At that stage, the Australian Attorney-General's Department was asking Indonesia to extradite Abbas, Sajjad, Haji Sakhi, a Pakistani smuggler currently jailed in Jakarta, and Amanullah Rezaie, an Afghan agent or middleman who is at liberty.
On June 30, The Australian alleged that Abbas and Sajjad were back in business and their syndicates had become the main operations in Indonesia dealing with southern Asian asylum-seekers.
Abbas, about 29, was arrested on August 24, mainly as a result of information from Australia that he was responsible for a boat carrying 102 passengers intercepted northeast of Christmas Island on August 11.
Canberra has renewed its request for his extradition; however Indonesia's Justice Ministry says Abbas will first have to serve a 2 1/2-year sentence confirmed this year by the Supreme Court.
There is no word on whether Sajjad will face new charges. This year, people-smuggling became a criminal offence under Indonesian law, punishable by five to 15 years' imprisonment.
Sajjad's arrest comes during an unusually vigorous crackdown on smuggling operations by Indonesian authorities.
Twice in September attempts by the Sajjad group to move passengers by road from Jakarta to launching places were disrupted by police interceptions.
Some of those passengers were to have been placed on a vessel which was planned to leave the East Java coast for Christmas Island last night or today.
ABC Online News
First posted November 1, 2011 14:08:02
Updated November 1, 2011 14:40:23
Western Australia's highest court has dismissed an application by an Iraqi man to appeal against his conviction for people smuggling.
Hadi Ahmadi was the first person to be extradited from Indonesia to face people smuggling charges.
He was extradited to Australia in May 2009.
Ahmadi was found guilty of organising two boats, carrying 562 asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, to travel from Indonesia to Christmas Island in 2001.
He maintained he helped the asylum seekers because it was his duty and obligation.
He was sentenced to seven and a half years jail.
In a unanimous decision today, the WA Court of Appeal refused his application to challenge his conviction.
Ahmadi will be eligible for release on parole in June next year.
ABC News Online
By New Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz
First posted November 14, 2011 13:33:03
Updated November 14, 2011 14:00:34
Extradition proceedings have begun in New Zealand for an alleged people smuggler wanted in Australia in relation to the SIEV X tragedy 10 years ago.
Maythem Radhi is wanted for allegedly facilitating the voyage of the SIEV X, which sank in international waters off Indonesia 10 years ago, killing more than 350 asylum seekers.
The Iraqi-born man was arrested in south Auckland in July.
The Manakau District Court heard today that Australian authorities had been unable to find Radhi, who settled in New Zealand in March 2009.
He is wanted on one count of facilitating the proposed entry of five or more non-citizens into Australia.
The offence carries a maximum 20-year jail term.
The court heard Radhi organised accommodation and transport for the Middle Eastern asylum seekers in Indonesia, accepted payments, and helped some passengers board the boat.
Two men are already serving jail terms in connection with the SIEV X tragedy.
November 15, 2011
Prosecutors face an uphill battle to extradite a man accused of organising a people smuggling boat that sank with the loss of 350 lives.
Iraq-born Maythem Radhi appeared in Manukau District Court yesterday over an Australian extradition warrant that alleged he had helped arrange the notorious SIEV X (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel) boat which sank south of Indonesia in 2001.
The boat was en route from Sumatra, Indonesia, to the Australian territory of Christmas Island when it sank.
Radhi was found living in South Auckland earlier this year.
The extradition can only succeed if it is proved that New Zealand had a comparable law to Australia at the time of the alleged crime and that the New Zealand law carried a term of imprisonment of over one year.
The court heard yesterday that in 2001 the wording of the applicable New Zealand law said a person was liable to three months in prison or a fine in respect of each person who entered the country.
The legal argument seems set to revolve around whether the term of imprisonment can accumulate for each illegal entrant, which would lift the offence over the requisite one-year-in-prison benchmark, or whether that accumulation clause only referred to the fine.
The law was amended three months after the SIEV X sinking and was now in-line with the Australian law that carries a 20-year maximum prison term.
Crown counsel Natalie Walker read an Australian police statement of facts to the court in which Radhi was alleged to be one of the principal organisers of the SIEV X, along with two other men - Khaleed Daoed and Abu Quassey.
The 451 passengers, mostly of Middle Eastern origin, were crowded onto the 19.5m vessel.
''The SIEV X was so overcrowded that 20 passengers refused to board it and after several hours into the journey 23 passengers who were concerned about the vessel's safety negotiated with a fishing boat to take them back to Indonesia,'' Walker said.
The remaining passengers and crew stayed aboard the ship, which struck rough weather on October 19, with the boat then sinking.
Most of the passengers drowned but about 45 were rescued by fishing vessels and returned to Indonesia.
Australian police alleged Radhi was present during negotiations about price and terms of travel and that he received payments from some passengers, controlled their movements and accommodation, accompanied some of them to Sumatra and assisted some to board the SIEV X.
Walker said the 10-year delay since the alleged offending was attributable to Australian authorities being unable to find Radhi, who settled in New Zealand on March 13, 2009.
New Zealand police detective Giles Hoy gave evidence of locating and arresting Radhi at his South Auckland home.
He said Radhi confirmed he was the person in a photograph shown to him though he could not remember where or when it was taken.
The extradition hearing was adjourned to December 5 for the defence to prepare its submissions.
ABC News Online
By New Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz
First posted March 19, 2012 13:21:44
Updated March 19, 2012 13:25:38
A New Zealand judge has ruled that an Iraqi-born man can be extradited to Australia to stand trial on people smuggling charges.
Maythem Radhi, 35, is accused of helping to organise the ill-fated voyage of the SIEV X which sank on its way to Christmas Island in October 2001, killing 353 people.
He was arrested in south Auckland last year.
It is alleged he facilitated the proposed illegal entry into Australia of more than 300 asylum seekers - a charge which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' jail.
The prosecution says Radhi was involved in negotiating and receiving payment for the voyage, organised transport and accommodation for the passengers, and physically helped some of them to board the doomed fishing boat.
Police allege the head of the people smuggling syndicate was Abu Quassey, who was sentenced to five years' jail in Egypt.
An assistant in the operation, Khaled Daoud, was given a nine-year prison term.
news.com.au / AAP
March 19, 2012 2:54PM
A judge has ruled that an Iraqi man living in New Zealand is to be extradited to Australia to face charges relating to his involvement in the SIEV X people-smuggling tragedy in 2001.
But it may be some time, if at all, before Maythem Radhi, 34, reaches Australian soil as his lawyer says an appeal is likely.
Radhi is accused of being one of three men responsible for trying to smuggle hundreds of asylum seekers on a boat which sank south of Indonesia in October 2001.
The sinking resulted in the death of 146 children, 142 women and 65 men.
Another 45 were rescued by Indonesian fishermen after 20 hours.
Radhi appeared before Judge Jonathan Moses at Manukau District Court this afternoon.
The judge ruled that there was enough evidence to prove that New Zealand had a comparable law to Australia at the time of the alleged crime and that the New Zealand law carries a term of imprisonment of over one year.
Throughout the court proceedings Radhi shielded his face using a tissue and the hood of his sweatshirt.
Following the judge's decision Radhi turned to look at a woman who was crying and three men who were sitting in the public gallery.
Radhi, who lives in South Auckland with his wife and family, faces one charge under the Immigration Act in Australia which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
Radhi has 15 days to file an appeal, which his lawyer says he is likely to do.
If he does appeal the case will be heard in the High Court in Auckland and any final decision may then be rubber stamped by the Minister of Justice Judith Collins.
AAP / Sydney Morning Herald
January 11, 2012 - 1:49AM
The federal government has dropped its three-year battle to bring a suspected people smuggling boss to Australia only three days before his release from an Indonesian jail.
The Attorney-General's Department has confirmed it had withdrawn its extradition request for Zamin Ali last Friday, The Australian reports.
Ali, a 56-year-old ethnic Hazara from Pakistan who is also known as Haji Sakhi, was released from prison in Mataram, Lombok on Monday.
Indonesian immigration officials are likely to deport him to Pakistan, sources have told the newspaper.
The Attorney-General's Department's request had been active since at least 2009 following Ali's arrest in February of that year.
A spokesman said: "Australian authorities are no longer in a position to prosecute Ali for the alleged people-smuggling offences for which his extradition was sought."
The Australian said it was understood the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed the case against Ali and found it would be unlikely to hold up in an Australian court.
Ali was one of four people smuggling suspects Australia wanted to extradite for prosecution.
Sources told the newspaper he had previously been deported from Indonesia, with his activities dating back to 1999.
Peter Alford and Emmy Zumaidar
January 11, 2012 12:00AM
The Australian government abandoned its three-year quest to extradite a suspected people-smuggling kingpin just three days before his release from an Indonesian prison this week.
The Attorney-General's Department confirmed yesterday it had withdrawn its extradition request for Zamin Ali last Friday, leaving him free of any risk of Australian prosecution.
Ali, an ethnic Hazara from Pakistan commonly known as Haji Sakhi, was released from prison in Mataram, Lombok, on Monday and is now in the hands of Indonesia's immigration service.
He is likely to be deported to Pakistan, from where, according to The Australian's sources, he has returned to Indonesia at least once before to resume alleged smuggling activities.
Ali is regarded by Australian investigators as a veteran and prolific operator whose network allegedly continued sending boats to Australia even after he was jailed for Indonesian immigration offences related to his smuggling ventures in May 2010.
Until the Attorney-General's Department withdrew its request, which had been active since at least 2009 following his arrest in about February that year, Ali was one of four people-smuggling suspects Australia was seeking to extradite for prosecution.
Two others, Sayed Abbas and Sajjad Hussain Noor, also Hazaras originally from Quetta in Pakistan, are in custody. The whereabouts of the fourth smuggling suspect, Amanullah Rezaie, is currently unknown.
The 56-year-old Ali, who has an Indonesian wife, was jailed for 2 1/2 years for Indonesian immigration offences, a term that the Indonesian Justice Ministry insisted had to be served before he was available for extradition proceedings.
However, the Attorney-General's Department confirmed last night that its request to the Justice Ministry for Ali's extradition was formally withdrawn last Friday - five days after his 56th birthday and three days before he was due to be released from prison. A senior Justice Ministry official had told The Australian last October that steps were being taken for the extradition process to be expedited once Ali had finished his Indonesian jail term. However the Attorney-General's Department withdrew its request "because Australian authorities are no longer in a position to prosecute Ali for the alleged people-smuggling offences for which his extradition was sought", a spokesman said.
The Australian understands that a Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions review of the case against Ali found it was unlikely to be sustained by an Australian court.
"Mr Ali's right to stay in Indonesia now is a matter for the Indonesian authorities and it would not be appropriate to comment further," a departmental spokesman said.
The Australian has been unable to establish the actual events that caused Canberra to seek his extradition at least three years ago but, according to smuggling sources, his Indonesian activities began as far back as 1999. According to one source, Ali has been deported from Indonesia at least once previously but returned to participate in the "second wave" of people-smugglers arising after the Rudd Labor government's abandonment of offshore processing and temporary protection visas in 2008.
It is common knowledge in Jakarta smuggling circles that Ali's network was continuing operations last year while he was imprisoned, although it also appears he was running out of luck - or forbearance from formerly helpful Indonesian officials. Few of the syndicate's boatloads were getting through to Christmas Island and most were being arrested by Indonesian authorities.
According to The Australian's sources, a boat carrying 44 passengers was intercepted by Indonesian authorities near Makassar, South Sulawesi, on September 12 last year.
Another alleged to have been sent by Ali's network and carrying 56 passengers was stopped after it broke down near Rote Island early last month.
Peter Alford and Paul Maley
January 12, 2012 12:00AM
Zamin Ali, the suspected people-smuggler Australian authorities gave up on prosecuting when he was almost within their grasp, was arrested in Indonesia at Australia's request, the Attorney-General's Department has confirmed.
The Attorney-General's Department last Friday withdrew its application to extradite Ali, better known in Indonesian smuggling circles as Haji Sakhi, three days before he was to be released from prison in Mataram, Lombok.
The 56-year-old Pakistani citizen had been one of four people-smuggling suspects Canberra was seeking to extract from Indonesia for prosecution in Australia.
But while Indonesian authorities were preparing to expedite Ali's extradition once his jail term ends, a review of the case in Canberra belatedly concluded a prosecution was unlikely to succeed.
"The extradition request was withdrawn because the commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions advised that, having reviewed the available evidence, it was no longer satisfied that there were reasonable prospects of success of the prosecution," a spokesperson for the Attorney-General's Department said yesterday. She confirmed, however, that Ali's arrest in September 2009, which led to him being sentenced to 2 1/2 years jail on local immigration charges, was "pursuant to a request made by Australia".
The Australian reported yesterday that Ali had been arrested earlier by Indonesian police on people smuggling-related charges but it appears he was released on that occasion.
Two other high-level smuggling suspects Australia is seeking to extradite and prosecute, Sayed Abbas and Sajjad Hussain Noor, are in custody in Jakarta having also been arrested at Australia's request last year. The whereabouts of the fourth suspect, Amanullah Rezaie, is unknown.
Ali, by reputation a prolific smuggler whose activities in Indonesia go back more than a decade, is being held at Immigration Department headquarters in Jakarta.
Sources said the department was awaiting a travel document from Pakistan so he could be deported there as soon as possible.
Sources close to the people-smuggling business in Jakarta say Ali, who has an Indonesian wife, has been deported to Pakistan at least once before but returned to resume business in Indonesia.
While jailed in Mataram, sources say, Ali's group continued people-smuggling activities.
December 24, 2017
Sydney Morning Herald
Maythem Radhi's wife whispers a prayer, hands pressed together beneath her face in supplication. Her dark eyes retreat even further into shadow beneath a soft black cap.
She strokes the back of her husband's neck; he runs his hand through his curly black hair before leaning one arm forward on the boardroom table of an Auckland law office.
They shiver. The air conditioning is running strong, and the solid leather chairs and dark panelling feel cold to the touch.
Or perhaps it's apprehension. Radhi and his wife know they may have only 48 hours before he's ordered to surrender for extradition and taken to the airport.
"Today my life will change," he says.
Radhi is accused of trying to smuggle asylum seekers on a boat which sank south of Indonesia, resulting in the death of 146 children, 142 women and 65 men. Australian Federal Police allege he was part of a smuggling group, along with Abu Quassey and Khaleed Daoed, who sent hundreds to their death on the SIEV-X in 2001.
Radhi adamantly denies culpability and since 2009 has fought extradition all the way to the New Zealand Supreme Court, pleading that his family not be "torn apart".
As we sit in his lawyer's office, that court is about to deliver a ruling on whether Radhi's case can be referred to New Zealand's Minister of Justice, and his family's fate hangs in the balance.
Shortly after 10am, barrister Ron Mansfield strides into the room, beaming as he exclaims: "We won!"
There's an unintelligible cry from Radhi. He jumps to his feet and throws his arms around Mansfield, who returns the bear hug. Radhi grins from ear to ear when asked a few minutes later how he feels. "I feel so much better," he says. "My heart nearly stopped!"
But Radhi's battle is far from over - he could yet be extradited to Australia face criminal trial.
In its decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court acknowledged Radhi risked being caught in "immigration limbo" if he were extradited to Australia. He's not a New Zealand citizen, meaning Immigration NZ could deny him re-entry regardless of whether a jury finds him guilty.
International refugee treaties mean Radhi could not be returned to his native Iraq, where he would likely face persecution, meaning he runs the risk of indefinite detention similar to that suffered by detainees on Manus Island.
The Supreme Court ruled his case should be referred to New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little.
One potential work-around would be for immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway to grant a special visa to Radhi, guaranteeing his return to New Zealand - and to his wife and three children - regardless of any trial outcome in Australia.
It's the latest twist in a decades-long saga that has thrown the Radhi family through a series of extraordinary hoops.
A near-death escape
Maythem Radhi's wife was bleeding out. She had been shot through the chest.
"She was dying in my hands, and there was blood everywhere," he says, during an interview at the family's Mangere Bridge home.
The bullet was supposed to hit her husband. Masked men had burst into their family home in Baghdad late one winter night in 1996, demanding extortion payments.
"They ask for money," Radhi says, "and because we didn't pay, they start shooting."
The attackers fled into the night. They were never found.
Radhi cradled his wife as his brother rushed them to hospital.
Surgeons discovered the bullet had missed her heart, and worked through the night to save her life.
By the time Radhi's wife gave birth to their first child the following year she'd made a full recovery.
But the young married couple knew they had to leave. They were Sabean, a minority religious group, and there was no place for them in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
"If we stayed it was going to get worse and worse," says Radhi. "We wanted to find a place where we were free to live like normal people."
The smuggling accusations
Maythem Radhi left almost everything behind when he fled Iraq in 2000.
Together with his brother, wife, and young daughter, he escaped first to Jordan, then onward to Malaysia, and then Indonesia. They were among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of refugees heading toward Australia.
"Everyone there is coming to leave," Radhi says. "It's not that people are coming to Indonesia to stay. My family, we come there, and we want to leave."
Refugees pooled their resources and pitched in to help each other.
Australian police allege Radhi became involved during this time with Abu Quassey, an infamous people smuggler. They say Radhi worked as his right-hand man, gathering fares for the doomed SIEV-X voyage.
Radhi tells a different story.
"It's all the people helping, it's not only me," he says. "They ask, 'which smuggler is good?' Just because we are talking does not mean we are smugglers."
Radhi and his family planned to leave Indonesia on that fateful voyage, which set off in the early hours of October 18, 2001. At the last minute they heard they might be considered for asylum in the UK - a brother already lived there - so they did not board.
"And then we heard the ship had sunk."
The SIEV-X sinking
Parents watched in horror as their sons and daughters screamed and thrashed in the oily shark-infested waters. Their cries gradually faded away as they grew weak and drowned.
Just 45 people survived when their vessel, old, leaky, and hopelessly overcrowded, capsized that afternoon. Most of the 353 who perished were women and children.
One woman gave birth as the disaster unfolded. Later, her body was seen floating in the ocean near that of her newborn, joined together in death by an uncut umbilical cord.
The boat later came to be known as SIEV-X, a clinical designation of Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel, yet to be assigned a tracking number.
Maythem Radhi knew many of the victims. "My friend was there and died, and really we cried," he says. "My wife kept dreaming about him every day for two years."
Yet survivors pointed to Radhi as one of those responsible for the disaster. He was arrested by Indonesian police.
"I have nothing to hide from," he says. "I didn't do anything wrong, so I went with them."
Then in his mid-20s, he spent four months behind bars in Jakarta in early 2002 before being released due to "insufficient evidence".
Quest for justice
Australian police fought long and hard in their quest for justice.
SIEV-X mastermind Abu Quassey was arrested in Indonesia and repatriated to his home country of Egypt, where he was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.
Fellow smuggler Khaleed Daoed was found in Sweden in 2003 and extradited to Australia for prosecution, where he received a prison sentence of nine years.
However the AFP failed in its attempts to haul Maythem Radhi before the courts. A warrant was kept out for his arrest, but the investigation was suspended in 2003 when it became clear it would not be possible to extradite him from Indonesia. The trail went cold.
During the following years, Radhi appealed to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to help build a new life.
A UNHCR report found the former goldsmith was a refugee "in continuing need of international protection", and in 2008 it recommended him as a suitable candidate for resettlement.
In 2009, the Radhi family was accepted into New Zealand as part of the annual refugee quota.
Australian authorities were astounded to learn of Maythem Radhi's arrival in New Zealand, and have been fighting to extradite him ever since.
A life in New Zealand
Radhi has come to see New Zealand as his home. It's a "beautiful country", he says, "and the people here are really nice. Nobody asks you about what is your religion, and what is your race."
Radhi wants to become a citizen, and says he can't wait to be rid of the cloud that's hung over his head for so many years.
"My children are first. We just want to try to give them a nice life," he says.
And his mum. He hasn't seen her since he fled Iraq, and she's now living in Europe with his sister. He can't risk leaving New Zealand to visit.
"She can't travel here, and she's very sick," Radhi says as tears well in his eyes. "I wish I can meet her again one day."
He'd never go back to Iraq. Since he and his wife left, their family has suffered an agonising trail of bloodshed.
"It's like the mafia," Radhi says. "They keep coming after your family one by one."
In 2003, his uncle was shot and killed while driving along the street. Two years later, his father was shot dead when he tried to save another son from being kidnapped. An uncle was tortured to death in 2014, and a cousin and brother-in-law were kidnapped and killed the same year, even though their family paid the demanded ransom.
Iraq is no longer their home. New Zealand is their home.
"The place that protects you is your home," says Radhi. "If a place does not protect you, it is not your home."