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SIEV 221 people smuggler loses sentence appeal

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An Iranian-Australian man convicted for his role in the 2010 Christmas Island boat tragedy that killed 50 people has lost an appeal to reduce his sentence for people smuggling offences.

Ali Khorram Heydarkhani pleaded guilty to two charges of facilitating entry to Australia of five or more people, and two charges of reckless endangerment in the act of facilitating.

He was sentenced in 2012 to 14 years in prison. On Wednesday the West Australian Court of Appeal rejected a submission to reduce that jail term.

His lawyer had argued that the sentence was "manifestly excessive" and that the sentencing judge erred in categorising the offending as falling within the "worst category".

But the WA Court of Appeal agreed with the sentencing judge that Heydarkhani had played an essential role in the people smuggling organisation, was motivated by money and showed little concern for the safety of the passengers.

Heydarkhani, who was granted refugee status and became an Australian citizen in 2004, was the first person convicted of aggravated people smuggling after admitting to arranging at least four boats, including the SIEV 221, to come to Australia between June 2010 and January 2011.

During his trial, the court heard Heydarkhani liaised with potential asylum seekers in organising the journeys from Indonesia and arranged the purchase of boats that were unseaworthy and did not contain enough safety equipment.

In some instances, the rotting and vermin-infested vessels did not contain a single lifejacket despite having dozens of asylum seekers on board, including children.

In his representations to potential asylum seekers, Heydarkhani lied about the condition of the vessels, telling some that the boats would be modern and fast, and that they would have their own rooms and food, the court heard.

Heydarkhani will be eligible for parole after serving nine-and-a-half years behind bars.

AAP

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