People-smuggler detained again in Indonesia

Published July 17, 2013

| AFP

A people-smuggling "kingpin" was detained again by Indonesian authorities, after a local court rejected Australia's request for the Afghan's extradition, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

A Jakarta court last week found "no legal foundation" to extradite Sayeed Abbas, ordering his release citing Indonesia's 1979 extradition law that did not cover the crime of people-smuggling.

His release was seen as a major blow to Australia as it desperately seeks to reduce the number of asylum seekers arriving on its territory by sea and dismantle people-smuggling networks that organise the boat journeys.

"After the court ruling, Abbas was detained again by immigration, and he's still in their custody because, ultimately, the decision to extradite is the president's," prosecutor Mahayu Suryandari told AFP.

"So Sayeed Abbas will remain in detention up until the president makes his decision," she said, adding that Thursday's court ruling was also under review.

Canberra is faced with record numbers of asylum seekers arriving on its shores, with the highly divisive issue dominating discourse ahead of September elections.

Four more asylum-seekers died after a people-smuggling ship carrying around 150 passengers capsized off Australia's remote Christmas Island on Tuesday, triggering a major rescue operation.

Australia has sought Abbas' extradition since 2010, accusing him of organising dozens of boats for asylum seekers, including one in 2011 that sank and killed some 200 people.

Australian authorities have said they believe Abbas continued to arrange boats for asylum seekers from his prison cell.

A court in Western Australia's Perth issued a warrant for his arrest on 27 charges related to people-smuggling to face a maximum jail term of 20 years.

Asylum seekers arriving in Indonesia from countries such as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar pay people-smugglers to get a seat on often rickety wooden vessels for the journey to Australia, but hundreds have died on the perilous voyage.

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