Khaleed Daoed, and alleged organiser of the SIEV-X refugee boat which
sank between Indonesia to Australia in 2001 with the loss of 353 lives,
goes on trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court today charged with two
counts of helping to organise the illegal entry of people.

The Federal government has been accused of knowing about the SIEV-X’s
fate, but doing nothing to rescue those aboard. A Senate inquiry has
rejected these claims, but found it was extraordinary the incident
passed undetected, given our extensive maritime surveillance designed
to stop people smuggling.

SIEV-X remains a matter of controversy. The Daoed case is likely to do
little to lessen this. Observers claim it will be a significant
national security and civil liberties case. Refugee advocates argue
that the government has been bringing people smuggling cases to court
in less accessible locations, such as Brisbane, Darwin and Perth, to
make it harder for senior journalists and Canberra corespondents to
cover them.

The government has a relatively easy task in this trial – to prove that
Daoed sold passages on SIEV-X. The main organiser of the voyage,
Egyptian Abu Quassey, took good care not to take part in ticket selling
transactions himself. He is currently serving a prison term in his
native country after a local court found him guilty of homicide through
negligence and aiding illegal immigration.

This may mean some of the bigger issues of the case are not mentioned.
There have been accusations that Justice Minister Chris Ellison and the
government have been at pains to talk up Daoed’s role as Quassey’s
right hand man since his arrest and extradition to Australia in late
2003, making it easy to link him with the SIEV-X deaths.

Refugee advocates say this will mean that accusations surrounding the
anti people smuggling program run in Indonesia by Immigration and the
Australian federal police will not be properly tested in court –
accusations including links between corrupt senior Indonesian police
and “freelance” people smugglers.

The greatest question of them all – whether Australian officials knew an
unsafe boat that was crammed with asylum seekers was sailing – may
remain unanswered.