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Australia police charge Iraqi man in case connected to hundreds of migrant deaths

Canberra's notorious offshore detention camps have been heaviliy criticised for their reportedly inhumane conditions [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 October, 2019

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Australian authorities have charged a man who was allegedly part of a group that trafficked people aboard an Indonesian fishing vessel in 2001.

An Iraqi man has been charged in Australia with people trafficking in connection with the drowning of more than 350 asylum seekers in 2001.

Maythem Radhi, 43, was arrested at Brisbane airport by Australian police late on Friday after being extradited from New Zealand. He has been charged with “organising groups of non-citizens into Australia.”

If found guilty, he faces 10 years in prison.

Police claim Radhi was part of a group that charged 421 refugees mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan for a place aboard an Indonesian fishing vessel in 2001. The boat sunk in the Indian Ocean en route to Australia’s Christmas island, leaving 353 people dead – 146 of whom were children.

"Police will allege in court that the man, then aged 24, took payments from the passengers," the Australian Federal Police said in a statement on Saturday - exactly 18 years after the disaster. 

Also read: Prominent Iraqi blogger returns home after being kidnapped following anti-government protests

"It will also be alleged that he helped facilitate the transportation and accommodation of people in Indonesia in preparation for their journey to Australia," they added.

Radhi is the third person to be tried for their role in the disaster.

Previously, Iraqi people smuggle Khaleed Shnayf Daoed received a nine-year-sentence after being extradited to Australia from Sweden with prosecuters arguing that he was a key organiser of Egyptian smuggler Abu Quassey.

Quassey was convicted in Egypt in December 2003 of causing death through negligence and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Refugees from the Middle East and Afghanistan have long sought asylum in Australia, even as Canberra is attempting to stem the flow.

Canberra's notorious offshore detention camps have been heaviliy criticised for their inhuman conditions. 

Australia has said it is enacting policies to discourage asylum-seekers from embarking on dangerous sea voyages, and has managed to halt the flood of boat arrivals that characterised previous governments.

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