Michael Gordon July 19, 2012
TWO Indonesians facing mandatory five-year jail terms for aggravated people smuggling did not know their destination was Australia or that their cargo of asylum seekers had no lawful right to come to this country, their lawyers told the County Court yesterday.
The two, Rustan and Sore, were members of a people smuggling ''B-team'' who were left to face prosecution with only the clothes they were wearing by those who profited from the transport of asylum seekers to Christmas Island in November 2010, the lawyers said.
Prosecutors conceded the case against the men - the first of more than 50 Indonesians to face trial in Victoria this year - was circumstantial, but expressed confidence that they could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the men knew their intended destination was Australia.
The court was told the two were among three or four Indonesian crew members when a fishing boat left Java carrying 53 adults and six children around November 25, 2010 - and that one or two of the crew left the boat two or three days into the journey after taking money from the asylum seekers.
Lincoln Crowley, representing the Director of Public Prosecutions, told a jury of eight women and four men the accused did not speak English and the asylum seekers spoke neither English nor Indonesian, so there was little communication on the boat.
But he said that when one or two crew left the boat, the accused Indonesians assumed responsibility for bringing the asylum seekers to Australia.
Michael Cahill, representing Rustan, 25, said that, after the boat was intercepted, the navy officer-in-charge used translation cards used in cases of illegal fishing to question his client. When asked which country's waters he was in, Rustan wrote: ''Indonasiah''.
The case continues today.