ARREST IN SWEDEN OF ALLEGED SIEVX PEOPLE SMUGGLING ACCOMPLICE, KHALED DAOED
- Media release by Tony Kevin, Canberra, 23 May 2003
Official advice by Australian Federal Police Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, of the arrest in Sweden yesterday of one of Abu Quassey's three reported Iraqi associates in the doomed SIEVX voyage, Khaled Dawud (alternative spellings: Daoed, Daoud), comes as an important and welcome - albeit unexpected - development.
This independent media release draws together what is so far publicly reported about Khaled Daoud and his relationship to Quassey and the SIEVX voyage, as a guide to public understanding of the serious issues involved.
With Australian law enforcement authorities about to testify in Senate Estimates Legal and Constitutional Committee this Monday 26 May, Khaled's arrest is indeed timely.
The most important source of public information currently available about Khaled Daoud and two other accomplices, the brothers Maysam and Maysar - the three Iraqi men who were reported by survivors to have worked closely as assistants of alleged people smuggler, Abu Quassey (I have suggested elsewhere that Quassey may not have been a 'genuine' people smuggler, but rather a witting or unwitting people smuggling disruption program 'sting' operative) - is Ghassan Nakhoul's brilliant Walkley Award-winning Arabic-language radio documentary program Five Mysteries of SIEVX, which went to air on SBS radio on 28 August 2002. An English language transcript is on www.sievx.com, under 'Documents' - 'Survivor Interviews' at http://sievx.com/articles/challenging/5mysteries.pdf. It is well worth reading in full.
'Five Mysteries' gives a detailed description of Quassey's three Iraqi associates, using oral accounts by survivors Rami Abbas Akram (son of another survivor Amal Hassan Nasri - both reported to be in Melbourne), and Najah Doayer (reported to be in Adelaide). These survivor witnesses said Abu Quassey himself usually stayed in the background, organising the boats; few passengers met him face to face. His three Middle Eastern working associates were Khaled Ishnak Dawud, Maysam and Maysam's brother Maysar (surnames not known). These three men handled most of the negotiations with passengers. Khaled made the deals, and Maysam recorded them in his book. People paid varying amounts: Khaled was good at extracting from people the maximum they could afford.
Najah Doayer said on 'Five Mysteries' that she embarked on SIEVX in a family group of five. In the sinking, she lost her baby aged 18 months, her brother, 23 and her sister, 20. A second sister managed to survive. Najah tells a sad story of the family's prior payment negotiation with Khaled and Maysam:
'They took $5,000 and about half a kilo of jewellery, like bracelets, medals and necklaces... We were three girls. My little brother was so young to deal with them. He just wanted to get out. They took everything we had'.
Najah and Rami Akram remember Khaled and Maysam well. Rami Akram says that both men took part in SIEVX's embarkation, in a bay near Bandar Lampung, in south Sumatra. Maysam and Maysar were in the launch, transporting people out to the boat. (NB: My observation is that these men would therefore have been party to the coerced loading of the later launch-loads of frightened passengers by armed force, with the help of 30 uniformed and armed Indonesian police, as reliably reported by many survivors to various media on 24-25 October 2001).
Acording to Rami Akram, Abu Quassey watched the loading of SIEVX from a distance. Other survivors have reported elsewhere that Quassey had an Indonesian police gun and that he himself threatened and even beat the later reluctant passengers, forcing them into the police launch that took them out to SIEVX in groups of 25.
Survivors gave such information about Quassey and his associates to the Indonesian police. Quassey was arrested soon after the sinking, on 6 November 2001 (see CNN and Jakarta Post news items on 6 and 8 November 2001, on www.sievx.com, 'Articles' - 'People Smuggling') Police were then reported to be looking for Quassey's three Iraqi accomplices.
According to a later AAP Report (People smuggling suspects arrested', AAP 11 January 2002), Indonesian police arrested Khaled and Maysam, under the names Khaleed Daoed (aged 35) and Miythem Kamil Radhia,(25) on January 11 2002. The two men were handed over to police by the UNHCR office in Jakarta.
UNHCR's Immigration Supervision Director, Muhammad Indra, told AAP (above report) the two men had previously been classed as refugees by the UNHCR. 'Indra said his department was investigating whether the pair were connected to 29-year-old Abu Quassey'.
According to this AAP report, 'the UNHCR was not immediately available for comment but a source familiar with the case said that it remained unclear whether the pair would retain their refugee status. Exclusion clauses and character provisions existed within the conventions on refugees, the source said.'
According to this AAP report, 'Sources said they were low-level players in Jakarta's people smuggling network.'
'Five Mysteries' tells the interesting, albeit disturbing, sequel to this report. Just a few weeks later, the two men were released, following enquiries as to their welfare by UNHCR in Jakarta. The UNHCR Media Officer in Jakarta, Kemala Ahwil, explained to the 'Five Mysteries' reporters that because the UNHCR office had granted Khaled and Maysam refugee status before the sinking of SIEVX, the office considered the men to be under its care. Ms Ahwil told the 'Five Mysteries' team: 'In the end, the police couldn't find any evidence and they were returned to us'.
The discouraged survivors, though convinced of Quassey's and his associates' guilt, made no further attempts to denounce them. UNHCR saw no reason to review their refugee status. 'Five mysteries' concluded this section of its account: 'It is believed that Khaled and Maysam have since been accepted as refugees by a European country, on the basis of their UNHCR-approved refugee status.'
Now, 19 months after the SIEVX tragedy, Khaled is re-arrested , this time in Sweden - presumably the country where he was given refuge under UNHCR's sponsorship, after being arrested and released by Indonesian police for lack of evidence in January-February 2002.
I have a lot of questions about this history.
Why was UNHCR's Jakarta office so keen in early 2002 to get Khaled and Maysam released from police custody and safely out of Indonesia as refugees?
And why is Khaled being re-arrested now, in Sweden at Australia's request, over a year after Indonesian authorities released him under pressure from UNHCR's Jakarta office? What is the evidence under which his arrest has now reportedly been carried out? Why wasn't such evidence provided by Australia to Indonesian police in January-February 2002?
Have Rami Akram and Najah Doayer now lodged formal sworn complaints against Khaled, on the basis of which the Australian authorities were able legitimately to ask Swedish police to arrest Khaled? If so, will Rami Akram and Najah Doayer be assisted by the Crown to travel to Sweden if necessary, to identify and testify against Khaled? Will such witnesses' right of return to Australia under their restrictive Temporary Protection Visas be fully guaranteed in advance by the Crown?
Where are the brothers Maysam and Maysar? Are they also in Sweden? Why have they not also been arrested, with Khaled?
The joint testimony of the three men, if all three were brought to trial in Sweden or Australia, could be a powerful tool for establishing the full truth of the alleged armed coerced loading of SIEVX by Quassey and 30 Indonesian police, as reported to numerous media by many different survivors on 24-25 October 2001. Khaled's testimony uncorroborated by anyone else will be less strong.
There is a further significant angle to this. One of Quassey's three Iraqi assistants - I am not sure which of the three, Khaled, Maysam or Maysar - was a Mandaean Christian. There were 21 or 22 Iraqi Mandaean Christians who embarked on SIEVX. They were a close-knit group, who kept themselves somewhat apart from their Iraqi Muslim compatriots. According to an unpublished private source, this group was quietly warned during the day waiting at Bandar Lampung before SIEVX's embarkation (17 October), by a Mandaean Christian accomplice of Quassey, that they should try to get off the boat at the earliest safe opportunity, because it was a highly dangerous boat. As widely reported by media, this Mandaean Christian group paid local fishing boats to take them off SIEVX at the Karakatu group of islands, once they were sure that Quassey was no longer following them in a police boat. By this act, the Mandaean group saved their lives. Some of them are now in Australia, according to Australian media reports.
Whichever of Quassey's Iraqi accomplices it was that warned the Mandaean Christians to get off SIEVX at the earliest safe opportunity - whether it was Khaled, Maysam or Maysar - must have vital knowledge of why Quassey and his police helpers were so determined to cram 421 people by armed force into a 19 metre boat, to which a highly dangerous chipboard upper deck had recently been fitted in order to be able to carry more passengers. This accomplice may have come to know of a deliberate plan to sink SIEVX as a deterrent against people smuggling, and may have wanted at least to try to save his own co-religionists from this fate.
So Khaled's arrest is a potential key to new evidence that could open up the whole SIEVX mystery: who organised this forced and grossly overloaded voyage, and was it a case of deliberate sabotage as a deterrent ?
Senator Ellison told AAP today that he was unsure how long Khaled's extradition from Sweden would take. But he added: 'We're issuing a formal request for extradition as we speak. And can I say, that we of course acknowledge Mr Daoed is subject to the laws of Sweden and the processes there.'
Senator Ellison also told AAP today that Australia was still negotiating with authorities in Egypt to extradite Mr Abu Quassey: 'If we can't secure his extradition to Australia, then we stand ready to assist the Egyptian authorities in any prosecution of Mr Abu Quassey.'
Further progress towards justice in the matter of the 353 deaths on SIEVX will depend on how openly and transparently the Quassey and Khaled extradition and trial processes are addressed from now on by Egyptian, Swedish, and Australian law enforcement authorities. I look forward to the Australian Senate and Australian media following developments in these two cases with the keen attention they deserve.
Tony Kevin, Canberra, 23 May 2003