An asylum seeker has given an insight into the people smuggling trade during the trial of an Indonesian man accused of bringing a boatload of Bangladeshis and Burmese to Australia.
Minaz Uddin paid about $7000 cash for passage from his home in Bangladesh to Australia in 2012.
But he was warned the journey would be life threatening.
Mr Uddin gave evidence against Rakiba Rakiba in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday.
Rakiba is accused of being a small, but vital cog in a people smuggling operation that brought a boatload of 25 asylum seekers, including two children, to Australia in 2012.
On Monday, Mr Uddin told a Supreme Court he had been shipped from Malaysia to Indonesia and then on to Australia.
He said passengers had been forced to hide under a plastic cover during daylight so as not to draw the attention of the Indonesian navy.
During a starlight conversation in broken Malaysian, Mr Uddin asked Rakiba how he could set the boat’s course without a compass.
He said the defendant pointed to himself and replied: “I am a compass”.
Mr Uddin said Rakiba appeared to be in charge, giving the other two crewmen orders during the voyage.
But Rakiba denies he captained the three-man crew who picked up the shipwrecked Bangladeshi and Burmese nationals when they were marooned on an uninhabited Indonesia island and brought them to Australia in June 2012.
Jurors heard the asylum seekers had spent 28 days stranded on the island, dependent on supplies of food and water brought by other boats, after their first boat sank.
Mr Uddin said Rakiba had arrived and told them he would take them Australia.
The fishing boat was intercepted near Ashmore Island, where Rakiba allegedly told Australian authorities he was the vessel’s captain.
The defendant was taken to Darwin and then brought to Canberra to face courts.
People smuggling prosecutions can be brought in any Australian jurisdiction under a national agreement aimed to take pressure off the judicial systems of the northern states and territory.
The Crown prosecutor, in her opening submission, said people smuggling was a controversial issue in Australian politics, but urged jurors to put aside their personal views and base their verdicts on facts presented during the trial.
The Crown told the court it would call a number of witnesses during the two-day hearing, including naval personnel and passengers from the voyage.
She said Rakiba had not been the mastermind of the operation.
“He played a small role, but a crucial one,” she said.
But defence barrister James Lawton countered that “as cogs go, he’s a small one”.
“He’s not some man in a slick suit in Bangladesh, taking money to facilitate the journey,” he said.
Mr Lawton said his client had made some formal admissions, but warned jurors it was not the whole story.
The trial before Justice Richard Refshauge continues on Tuesday.