The Quasi-SIEVX Trial?|
by Marg Hutton
8 September 2003
What is going on in Cairo with regard to the trial of self-confessed people smuggler, Abu Quassey - the alleged head of the syndicate that organised the fatal SIEVX voyage?
Today's report in the Australian provides more questions than
Is this trial a genunine attempt to bring the infamous smuggler to
account over his part in the deaths by drowning of 353 asylum seekers
or is it more smoke and mirrors?
From the report in the Australian it sounds as if Australia has
been kept (or has kept itself) well out of the loop with Cairo in this matter. A
spokesperson for Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison is quoted as saying 'the
Egyptian ambassador in Canberra would be told Australian Federal
Police could provide a brief of evidence and witness statements
gathered from the 45 survivors'.
Given that the trial has already commenced (according to yesterday's
report on the ABC website) why hasn't
our government already provided Egypt with this information?
It sounds as if Australia has not progressed its involvement in the
case any further since last May when Ellison and the Australian
Federal Police (AFP) appeared at
Senate Estimates. Back then we were told by Ms Robyn Frost, Director
the International Crime Branch in the Attorney General's Department
Australian embassy in Cairo had been 'in quite close contact with the
Egyptian authorities' regarding the possible extradition and
prosecution of Quassey, but at that point had 'not received any
information' (see Hansard extract).
Close contact indeed! And what has changed since then? According to
Ellison's spokesperson quoted in today's Australian, nothing at
all. When asked about Australia's offer to help prosecute Quassey, he
said: 'So far, we have not had a response to this offer, so this week
we will be renewing the offer of assistance and will probably be
speaking to the ambassador' [emphasis added].
And then there's the issue of witness statements. According to the
same newspaper article 'the Egyptian ambassador in Canberra would be
told Australian Federal Police could provide a brief of evidence and
witness statements gathered from the 45 survivors.'
This implies that the AFP is offering Egypt a full complement of
witness statements from survivors, but this seems not to be the case.
For one thing, one of the 45 survivors who was rescued after the
sinking was only a babe in arms - young Kauthar Sadiq. So it seems
highly unlikely that the AFP has been interviewing this young toddler
for its brief of evidence.
But more importantly, what about the twenty-three people who
disembarked from SIEVX prior to the sinking? Surely these people would
have a lot to say about Abu Quassey and how they came to be aboard the
vessel. Have the AFP interviewed these people? If so, why aren't they
supplying their witness statements to Egypt along with those taken
from the other survivors?
Is this simply a lack of attention to detail or is it further evidence
of the AFP and Justice Minister dragging their heels over all things
connected with SIEVX?