Asia-Pacific

Australia convicts Iraqi of people smuggling

Patrol boat transporting suspected illegal immigrants to an Australian government immigration detention centre on Christmas Island
Image caption Australia regularly intercepts asylum seekers, transferring them to a centre on Christmas Island

An Australian court has convicted an Iraqi man of smuggling more than 500 asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia by boat in 2001.

Hadi Ahmadi was found guilty on two of four charges of people smuggling by a jury in Perth.

He will be sentenced next month and faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Ahmadi was the first person to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia on people smuggling charges.

He had pleaded not guilty to charges that he helped smuggle more than 900 asylum seekers on four boats over six months in 2001.

Following a 10-week trial, a jury at the District Court of Western Australia found him guilty of helping to organise two of the boats, which together carried more than 550 people.

He was found not guilty on one other charge and the jury could not reach a verdict on another.

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat has increased sharply this year.

People from the Middle East and Asia often fly to Indonesia and pay people smugglers to ship them to Australian islands in the Indian Ocean.

Prosecutors said Ahmadi had been working for a leading Indonesian people smuggler, Achmad Olong, who is serving a five-year prison term in Australia.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Davies said Ahmadi was a refugee who had fled Iraq and had not been paid to help the asylum seekers.

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