Indonesians to stand trial for people smuggling
A boat carrying asylum-seekers off the northern coast of Australia. Photo: Supplied
Three Indonesian men facing people smuggling charges allegedly picked up their stranded human cargo from a deserted island after their first boat started breaking up, a court has heard.
Rakiba Rakiba, Toni Kaubulan and Ode Basirun are locked up in a Canberra jail awaiting trial for their alleged role in trying to bring 21 asylum seekers to Australia.
But the lawyer for one of the three men has warned his client might have spent more time behind bars on remand than any sentenced imposed if convicted.
The trio have pleaded not guilty, and late on Thursday afternoon Magistrate David Mossop committed them to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
The ACT Magistrates Court heard the asylum seekers, including Burmese and Bangladeshi nationals, were shipwrecked in June on an island near Indonesia.
The boat on which they left Indonesia started breaking up and taking on water, forcing them abandon ship.
It is alleged the group spent about 28 days stranded, with boats regularly dropping off food and water, before the three accused smugglers arrived on a new vessel.
The Commonwealth DPP has alleged the second boat, the SIEV 350, was dispatched to ferry them the rest of the way. They were intercepted two nautical miles from the Ashmore Islands.
Rakiba, Kaubulan and Basirun spent three months in immigration detention in Darwin before being transferred to Canberra.
People smuggling prosecutions can be brought in any Australian jurisdiction under a national agreement aimed to take the pressure off the judicial systems of the northern states and territory.
Kaubulan's lawyer, Marcus Hassall, on Thursday argued the CDPP had no case against his client.
Earlier this year the Victorian Court of Appeal ruled the Crown had to prove an accused people smuggler knew the passengers were bound for Australia.
Mr Hassall argued the evidence against his client didn't go far enough. He said the evidence suggested Rakiba was in charge and his client either just followed orders or didn't understand them.
But the court also heard Kaubulan admitted having a prior relationship with Rakiba, saying, ''Rakiba is the one who brought me here and that's why I'm here''.
Mr Mossop said given the evidence of their relationship and the circumstances in which they picked up their passengers Kaubulan had a case to answer.
Mr Hassall and Basirun's lawyer, Craig Lynch, wanted the case to go to hearing in the Magistrates Court rather than the Supreme Court.
Mr Lynch said his 27-year-old client was unlikely to face his trial in the higher court before mid-2014, two years after his arrest.
But Rakiba's solicitor Paul Edmonds and prosecutor Naomi Buick refused to consent to jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court.
The men will face the Supreme Court for the first time next month.