Indonesia jails Australian, Pakistani people smugglers
Agence France-Presse in Banten
An Indonesian court jailed an Australian and a Pakistani for six years each after the men were caught organising an asylum-seeker boat to Australia, their lawyer said on Wednesday.
Ali Qaseem, a 57-year-old from Sydney described by prosecutors as part of an “international people-smuggling network”, and Pakistani Sadaat Ali were also fined 500 million rupiah (HK$400,000) each.
Qaseem, who sought asylum in Australia after arriving from Pakistan in 1999, and Ali were arrested in September in the town of Pandeglang in western Java as they tried to arrange for a boat to take 45 asylum seekers to Australia.
“They were both found guilty of breaking Indonesian immigration laws. Ali Qaseem denies any involvement, and is deciding whether to appeal. He has seven days to lodge an appeal,” the men’s lawyer Hassan Ali Rahman said.
The Pakistani had no plans to appeal, Rahman said.
The sentences, handed down on Tuesday, fell short of a demand by prosecutors for 11 years.
Prosecutor Adhy Kusomo described Qaseem, who worked as a house painter in Australia, as “the coordinator” and Ali as “his assistant”.
“Qaseem is part of an international people-smuggling network involving countries including Australia and Pakistan,” he said.
“But he’s only one of several coordinators, not the mastermind. There are many more people above him.”
Indonesia is a major transit hub for asylum seekers from countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, who pay people smugglers to organise boats, which are often leaky wooden vessels.
Hundreds have died in recent years making the perilous journey to Australia, where the issue has become politically divisive.
Australia, which has long pushed for greater regional co-operation to crack down on people smuggling, last year dealt with a record 17,202 asylum seekers arriving by sea.