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    Gillard Abbott Go back to where you came from

Hadi Ahmadi's People Smuggling Trial

The Perth Court hears about moral duty and bribed police witnesses

You can almost hear the roar of indignation of The Australian State and its Border Guards - the Immigration Department. The fury about its loss of border control is audible. Furious they are - and they have always been.

Nevertheless - it is a universal right for refugees to arrive at the border, and arrive inside that border, and knock on the Doors of Decency. The Australian State tries its hardest to bury that aspect of international law as spelled out in the UN Refugee Convention.

So, to incorporate that farcical National Indignation with that nagging Breach of Sovereignty, Australia has created extreme punishment for those who bring refugees to safety. We call these punishment mechanisms our "people smuggling laws".

Below is the collection of media reports around the trial and punishment, between June 1 and September 24 2010, of one of these refugee journey enablers: Mr Hadi Ahmadi.

Related pages

1 April 2010: Is Mr Hadi Ahmadi a people smuggler or escape organiser? - Mr Hadi Ahmadi assisted in bringing four boats to Australia. His passengers were not 'illegal immigrants' but asylum seekers: of the 900 passengers, no less than 866 were declared genuine refugees once their claims were processed. That's a success rate of 97%. Does that make him a people smuggler or a UN Convention enabler - or an "escape organiser"?

19 April 2010: The 2010 Anti-Smuggling Legislation - Punishing smugglers, or finding a covert way to lock Australia's borders? "In view of commitments given by Australia under the UN Refugee Convention, also to refugees arriving by boat, this legislation gives the appearance of being highly manipulative in nature."

  • Scum of the earth? People-smuggling, criminalisation and refugees - A short paper by Michael Grewcock (2010), linking the criminalisation of smugglers to Australia's political intent to stop asylum seekers from arriving on its shores. From Human Rights Defender (UNSW), Vol 19 Issue 3, pp. 14-16. (PDF File 107Kb)
  • People Smuggling: Project SafeCom Submission to 2010 Senate Inquiry -The laws are a thinly veiled attempt to manipulate the limitations imposed on signatory states through the United Nations definition of what constitutes people smuggling. They complete a development where the priest who smuggled the Von Trapp family across the Alps, as well as Oskar Schindler, will now be jailed as people smugglers by Australia. (PDF file 288Kb)
  • Khalid Koser: Why Migrant Smuggling Pays - One of the world's leading authorities on people smuggling, Khalid Koser, shares his research conducted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and countries in Africa at the 2009 Adelaide Festival of Ideas. Session host Peter Mares at the University of Adelaide, Sunday 29 July 2009. (PDF File 96Kb)

2 March 2010: To Catch a People Smuggler, to Wade through Brine of Spin - Anyone who tries "to catch a people smuggler" needs to first peel off the many layers of spin and labelling. This page, primarily about 'Captain Bram', one of the Australian government's "notorious" people-smugglers, wonders why he has not been extradited to Australia.

24 August 2009: Reaching Australia: Iraqi asylum seekers in transit in SE Asia - This paper considers the relationship between asylum seekers and people smugglers, based primarily on interviews with Iraqis settled in Australia and Iraqis stranded in Indonesia since 2001. The study is responsive to recognition within forced migration research of the importance of giving voice to the main agents - refugees and asylum seekers - as part of the research process.

18 May 2009: Kevin Rudd's vile band of people smugglers - Kevin Rudd, with his media remarks, had escalated the issue of people smuggling, and remarkably, a crack appeared in their vileness. For the first time in Australian history, media opinion started to turn against his line, and reporters and opinion writers started to open the issue and, almost unaware of it, started to 'humanise' people smugglers. Thank you, Prime Minister!

 :::UPDATED Febr 2008:::: 26 September 2007: Oskar Schindler and the people smuggler - Under Australia's interpretation of what constitutes a 'people smuggler', the young man who sold the donkey to Joseph and Mary would be prosecuted and imprisoned by law ... So would the priest who helped the Von Trapp family ... this page is about Ali Al Jenabi, one of those people smugglers.

Quick links:

Click the links below to jump down to the articles and items on this page with the same title.

"People smuggling" laws labelled misguided

Radio 2SER Podcast
September 11, 2010 06:03 AM PDT

Crewmen on asylum seeking boats will be hit the hardest by new federal laws targeting people smugglers. The tougher legislation was passed in May and includes a five year minimum sentence for anyone involved in soliciting illegal refugees. Since then over 200 predominantly poor Indonesian fishermen - paid by the boats' organisers - have been arrested. They are currently awaiting trial in detention centres.

The new legislation has sparked criticism over the cost to tax payers and the burden it will put on overcrowded centres. But Queen's Council, Jon Tippet says it is not the money we should be concerned about but rather the misguided perceptions of the people on these boats. He spoke with 2SER's Tess Morrell.

Audio: Jon Tippet QC speaks to Radio 2SER

Jon Tippet QC about people smuggling

Click on the right-hand arrow to open and play the audio file

Click on this image to open the WinMedia audio Clip

http://2ser.podomatic.com/entry/index/2010-09-11T06_09_36-07_00

People smuggler's role like 'helping Jews escape'

ABC News Online
By David Weber and staff
First posted Tue Jun 1, 2010 5:00pm AEST
Updated Tue Jun 1, 2010 8:09pm AEST

The District Court in Perth has been told the actions of an alleged high-ranking people smuggler can be likened to those of people who helped Jews escape from Nazi Germany.

The comparison was made by the lawyer for Iraqi-Iranian citizen Hadi Ahmadi, 34, who is on trial accused of smuggling more than 900 asylum seekers into Australia.

The asylum seekers were mainly from Iraq and Iran and were on four boats that arrived at Christmas Island in 2001.

Prosecutors say Ahmadi collected payments of up to $US8,000 ($9,600) from them and helped organise accommodation and travel arrangements in Indonesia.

Prosecutor Ron Davies QC told the court almost all of the charges relate to Ahmadi's actions in Indonesia.

Ahmadi is an albino. Mr Davies said there were not a lot of albinos in Indonesia in 2001 and witnesses would give clear descriptions of him.

Two witnesses who were involved in people smuggling activities would also give evidence about Ahmadi's alleged involvement, the court heard.

Ahmadi denies any wrongdoing.

His lawyer Jonathan Davies said Ahmadi was helping the asylum seekers out of necessity because they faced persecution and possible torture and death if they were deported to their homelands.

He went on to say Ahmadi was a Shiite Muslim refugee from Iraq who lived in Iran before fleeing to Malaysia, and gave "brave and selfless service" to others because of his experiences.

Mr Davies also said Ahmadi's role had been greatly exaggerated and there was no evidence he received any money from people-smuggling activities.

The judge has told the jury the public debate over boat people has nothing to do with the trial of Ahmadi.

The trial is set down for 10 weeks.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/01/2915420.htm

Iraqi man on trial for people smuggling

Christiana Jones
The West Australian
June 1, 2010, 3:47 pm

An Iraqi man accused of being a senior player in a people smuggling chain that brought hundreds of asylum seekers from Indonesia into Australian waters is on trial in the District Court.

Hadi Ahmadi, 34, is fighting 21 charges, with Commonwealth prosecutor Ron Davies today telling the jury that they would hear evidence from other people smugglers and also from some of the passengers of the four boat loads that Mr Ahmadi is accused of helping facilitate as part of the people smuggling racket in 2001.

The four boats carried a total of 911 passengers including crew members to Christmas Island during separate trips in 2001, the court was told.

The prosecutor told the jury it would hear evidence of how Mr Ahmadi had helped collect payment of "astronomical" fees of up to US$8000 from "unfortunate passengers", some of whom would have "tragic stories to tell" about their circumstances.

Mr Davies said Mr Ahmadi had been a "right hand man" to a character who sat directly underneath the "number one people smuggler in Indonesia" in 2001.

The prosecutor said witnesses would give evidence of Mr Ahmadi, who was an albino and "unique" looking, doing "bidding", checking payment, organising buses and helping load luggage and passengers on to small boats at Indonesian beaches at dark which would then ferry the asylum seekers to bigger boats waiting off shore.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Davies told the jury his client had done nothing wrong and had been a refugee himself, from Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign, who had been compelled to help other asylum seekers fleeing persecution and possible torture or death.

The defence lawyer briefly compared the accused man's actions to those people who had smuggled Jews out of Nazi-occupied territory before a prosecution objection was upheld by the judge.

The defence lawyer said his client's role in dealing with people smugglers had been "grossly exaggerated" and suggested it was possible that a defence of "necessity" could be relevant, in which a person was found innocent because they had been acting proportionately to avoid what they reasonably believed was "irreparable evil".

The court was told that prosecution evidence would be heard from one witness who had acted as a "double agent" for Federal Police while being involved in people smuggling activities and who had been paid $250,000.

The trial, which is set for ten weeks, continues.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/7328350/iraqi-man-on-trial-for-people-smuggling

Accused people smuggler 'a refugee'

Cortlan Bennett
June 1, 2010 - 6:24pm
AAP / The Age

An accused Iraqi-Iranian people smuggler is a refugee and the son of a prominent Shi'ite cleric who was killed in a failed uprising against Saddam Hussein, a Perth court has been told.

Hadi Ahmadi, 34, became the first person extradited to Australia from Indonesia on people-smuggling charges in May 2009.

His trial began in the Perth District Court on Tuesday, with Ahmadi pleading not guilty to 21 charges of illegally assisting people to enter Australia.

In his opening address, crown prosecutor Ron Davies said Ahmadi had helped smuggle more than 900 asylum seekers on four boats to Christmas Island between March and August 2001.

He said Ahmadi was employed by Achmad Olong, the "number one people smuggler in Indonesia at the time".

Olong is serving a five-year jail term in Australia after being deported from Thailand and pleading guilty last year to smuggling 353 people to Christmas Island in 1999.

He had faced a maximum 20-year jail term before cooperating with federal authorities and is a key crown witness in Ahmadi's trial.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Davies told the court there was no evidence Ahmadi had made any money from his activities.

He said Ahmadi himself had been the victim of a people smuggler after losing $US2000 in two failed attempts to sail to Australia.

"He lost his own money to a people smuggler ... and did what he did to survive and help his fellow refugees," Mr Davies said.

The jury heard that Ahmadi was the son of a Shi'ite ayatollah who was killed during the failed uprising against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

Ahmadi fled to Iran, where he lived in a refugee camp, before travelling to Malaysia on a false passport after Iranian authorities threatened to deport him back to Iraq, the court heard.

From Malaysia he travelled to Indonesia, where he tried twice to make his way to Australia as an asylum seeker in 2000, but failed.

In desperation, he agreed to help other refugees in their bid to make it to Australia, Mr Davies said.

"He is a refugee himself ... registered with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in Indonesia," the lawyer said.

Mr Davies said Ahmadi had no previous record before being arrested in Indonesia and was a "brave man" of "excellent character".

He said Ahmadi's role in assisting asylum seekers had been "grossly exaggerated" and his charges would be challenged as a defence of necessity.

Such a defence seeks to excuse a criminal act committed because of an urgent or life-threatening situation.

The trial continues before Judge Andrew Stavrianou.

http://news.theage.com.au/.../accused-people-smuggler-a-refugee-20100601-wuyx.html

People smuggler informant wanted revenge

AAP, The West Australian
June 2, 2010, 3:58 pm

An Iraqi asylum seeker who worked for people smugglers in Indonesia while being a paid informant for Australian authorities has given evidence against an accused smuggler.

In the Perth District Court today, Waleed Sultani said he had worked with Hadi Ahmadi in Java in 2000 and 2001, assisting asylum seekers wanting to board boats to Australia.

Mr Ahmadi, 34, was extradited to Australia from Indonesia on people-smuggling charges in May 2009.

He has pleaded not guilty to 21 charges of illegally assisting more than 900 asylum seekers on four boats to reach Christmas Island between March and August 2001.

Under questioning from crown prosecutor Ron Davies, Mr Sultani said he and Mr Ahmadi worked for people smuggler Sayeed Omeid in Jakarta.

He said their job was to meet prospective passengers, sign them up with Mr Omeid and look after them.

"We have to talk with them to be passengers for Omeid," he said.

They found hotels for the passengers and when boats were ready to leave, organised buses and accompanied them to the departure points, Mr Sultani said.

"I did that many times with Hadi."

Mr Sultani, a former tank commander in the Iraqi army who fled dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, said Mr Ahmadi collected money from the passengers, always in US dollars, to pay Mr Omeid.

He said that while he was working for Mr Omeid and two other people smugglers, Hasan Ayoub and Ali Jenabi, he was regularly reporting to the Australian embassy in Jakarta on their activities.

Mr Sultani said he had originally paid Mr Omeid $US2000 ($2398) to be put on a boat for Australia, but when that fell through, the money was not refunded and he had no choice but to work for him to try to get his money back.

Working as an informant for Australian authorities was a chance for payback.

Mr Sultani came to Australia in 2002 and was provided with accommodation by the Australian Federal Police until 2005.

He is now an Australian citizen and in 2004, was a witness in the trials of Ayoub and Ali Jenabi in Perth and Darwin.

When questioned, Mr Sultani said that after the pair were convicted and jailed for people smuggling in 2004, he was given a $250,000 reward for his work for the AFP.

He said he had given information on people smuggling on the condition he would not be charged.

Under questioning from defence counsel Jonathan Davies, Mr Sultani said he fled Iraq during Saddam's rule and could not go back for fear of arrest and persecution.

He said Hadi Ahmadi's family were well known in Iraq and he agreed they were "of very high character".

On Tuesday, the jury heard that Mr Ahmadi was the son of a Shi'ite ayatollah who was killed during the failed uprising against Saddam in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

The trial, set down for 10 weeks, continues before Judge Andrew Stavrianou.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/7334585/people-smuggler-informant-wanted-revenge

Revenge drove Iraqi informer on people-smuggler

Debbie Guest
The Australian
June 03, 2010 12:00AM

After giving a people-smuggler $2000 and not getting his promised trip to Australia, former Iraqi soldier Waleed Sultani decided to go to the Australian embassy in Jakarta and become a double agent and informant.

And as a reward for infiltrating the cross-border people-smuggling operations for the Australian Federal Police, he was given $250,000 of taxpayers' money and a visa to come to Australia.

Giving evidence against alleged people-smuggler Hadi Ahmadi in a Perth court yesterday, Mr Sultani said it was revenge that drove him to turn against the smugglers.

"In August 2000 me and my friends went to the embassy. We suggested we could help them arrest people-smugglers," he said.

"It was kind of revenge -- he took our money and never cared about us."

Mr Sultani was talking about Sayeed Omeid, an accomplice of Ahmed Olong, whom the prosecution described as the former No 1 people-smuggler in Indonesia.

Mr Sultani said he passed on information about the movement of boats, passengers and phone numbers of smugglers to an embassy official called Mr Lee. When he did this, he and the accused man, Mr Ahmadi, were working for Mr Omeid by helping to arrange the movement of asylum-seekers to boats that were leaving for Australia.

Mr Sultani said he had received $250,000 from Australian officials in 2005 after giving evidence at another people-smuggling trial, that of Hassan Ayoub in Perth's District Court a year earlier.

When asked by Mr Ahmadi's lawyer, Jonathan Davies, yesterday if he was expecting a bigger reward if Mr Ahmadi were convicted, Mr Sultani said "No."

He told the court that in 2002 the Australian Federal Police had helped him come to Australia on a justice visa and for the next three years the agency had paid for his accommodation.

Mr Sultani said that from 2002 to 2005 he had remained in contact with the AFP, giving them information he had heard from Mr Ahmadi, who was then still in Indonesia.

Mr Sultani said he had left Iraq for Jordan in 1996, in fear of the Iraqi secret police, because he had deserted from the army, where he served as a lieutenant in the tank regiment.

He said he had then made his way to Malaysia and Indonesia in the hope of coming to Australia via boat as an asylum-seeker.

Mr Ahmadi has pleaded not guilty to 21 people-smuggling charges brought after he was extradited from Indonesia.

The trial continues.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/.../revenge-drove-iraqi-informer.../story-e6frgczf-1225874716198

People smuggler gives evidence in Perth

Lloyd Jones
June 3, 2010 - 7:34PM
AAP / The Age

A convicted people smuggler has told a Perth court he had to pay off authorities in Indonesia when he organised boats to take asylum seekers to Australia.

The Indonesian man, whose identity has been suppressed, told the District Court on Thursday he operated as a people smuggler both to help asylum seekers and make money.

He was called as a witness in the case of Iraqi man Hadi Ahmadi, who was extradited to Australia from Indonesia on people-smuggling charges in May 2009.

Ahmadi, 34, has pleaded not guilty to 21 charges of illegally assisting more than 900 asylum seekers on four boats to reach Christmas Island between March and August 2001.

Giving evidence on Thursday, the convicted people smuggler said he saw Ahmadi many times at people smuggling meetings in Jakarta hotels and on beaches where boats were loaded with asylum seekers.

Following an application by lawyers acting for the Australian Federal Police, Judge Andrew Stavrianou suppressed publication of the convicted smuggler's name and any evidence that might identify him.

The man told the court he would book bungalows on a beach with a jetty and arrange a large boat to stand off the beach while smaller boats ferried asylum seekers out to it.

Up to 300 passengers would be loaded on the big vessels for the trip to Christmas Island or elsewhere in Australian waters, he said.

The witness, who served prison time in Australia but had his sentence cut for assisting authorities, said that when he organised people smuggling in 2000 and 2001 there were many asylum seekers wanting boats.

He said he saw Ahmadi many times at beach departure points, organising passengers he had brought there by bus.

Speaking through an interpreter, the man said such operations needed a lot of funds to cover costs "including to pay authorities to do what I have to do".

"I knew this was an illegal job and very high risk ... can you prepare a boat to go to Australia for free?"

The witness said that at the time, no one got deported and Indonesian immigration authorities didn't "give a damn about this".

"As long as they (asylum seekers) don't break the law or get in trouble, even if they overstay their visa, they can stay anywhere and walk free."

The witness said he wanted to help asylum seekers for humanitarian reasons, knowing they had fled from threats in their own countries.

He said he had pleaded guilty to people smuggling, feeling he had to take responsibility for his actions and turn his life around.

"It's a moral call that I have to settle," he told the court.

The jury trial continues and is set down for 10 weeks.

http://news.theage.com.au/.../people-smuggler-gives-evidence-in-perth-20100603-x5dp.html

'Moral duty' swayed smuggler

Nicolas Perpitch
The Australian
June 04, 2010 12:00AM

A key Indonesian people-smuggler claims he turned informant for the Australian Federal Police and revealed the inner workings of a major trafficking network because it was his moral duty to turn his life around.

But he also admitted he had cut a deal with the AFP which led to a significant reduction in his Australian prison sentence and his release after the minimum 2 1/2-year period.

The smuggler, whose name and identity was suppressed by the West Australian District Court, had also agreed as a condition of parole to voluntarily return to Australia and give evidence in the trial of alleged former colleague, Hadi Ahmadi.

Mr Ahmadi, 34, is charged with bringing 911 asylum-seekers to Christmas Island on four separate boats in 2001.

The court yesterday also heard further evidence from Waleed Sultani, a former Iraqi soldier who had worked in the same smuggling network while acting as a double agent for the AFP.

He received $250,000, Australian citizenship and indemnity from prosecution in return for the information. He said he had acted out of revenge against the people-smugglers who had taken his money but had failed to bring him to Australia. He described Mr Ahmadi as a "middle man".

The smuggler told the court he was giving evidence against Mr Ahmadi because "it's a moral call I have to settle".

"I thought I had to solve this problem my own way, including to give contributions, such as coming whenever needed for the Australian government and the people of Australia," he said.

But he also defended people-smuggling as a humanitarian endeavour and a commercial business which was "beneficial to everyone".

He described Mr Ahmadi as one of the people responsible for keeping track of the numbers of asylum-seekers in Jakarta and getting them on to boats headed for Australia. He explained how Indonesian authorities would be paid off and asylum-seekers could walk the streets of Jakarta freely with no fear of deportation as long as they kept out of trouble.

The asylum-seekers were kept in the mountain tourist town of Bogor for weeks or months until taken to beaches near Jakarta for embarkation.

The trial continues.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/.../moral-duty-swayed-smuggler/story-e6frg6nf-1225875245280

Accused people smuggler says he helped out of duty

ABC Online News
First posted Tue Jul 6, 2010 4:18pm AEST
Updated Tue Jul 6, 2010 4:25pm AEST

An alleged people smuggler has told a Perth court he provided assistance to asylum seekers in Indonesia because it was his duty.

35-year-old Hadi Ahmadi is on trial accused of helping more than nine hundred asylum seekers travel from Indonesia to Christmas Island on four boats in 2001.

It is alleged Mr Ahmadi was part of a people smuggling ring and provided the asylum seekers with transport and accommodation.

In his evidence, he admitted helping asylum seekers but maintained it was his duty and obligation because if he did not help them no one else would.

He also said he understood how the asylum seekers felt because he'd also been forced to leave his homeland and had wanted to travel to Australia but had had two failed boat trips.

He said the asylum seekers were in Indonesia illegally and he feared if they were arrested they would be deported or put in immigration detention.

Earlier Mr Ahmadi said he ended up in Indonesia after fleeing Iraq and Iran because he feared for his life.

He testified he made two attempts to travel to Australia but the boats had to turn back and he then was taken into immigration detention where he spent months before being recognised as a refugee by the United Nations.

Mr Ahmadi said he was then asked by a people smuggler to work for him.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/06/2946264.htm

AFP 'threatened to put me in a hole'

Debbie Guest
The Australian
July 28, 2010 12:00AM

Accused people-smuggler Hadi Ahmadi was offered a deal by AFP to co-operate and when he refused, he said he was told he'd be "put in a hole".

"Hadi, you will be punished. I'll put you in a hole and you will never get out of that hole," Mr Ahmadi claimed he had been told by an AFP officer, a Perth court was told yesterday.

The Iraqi also claimed the officer gave him a note saying, "Hadi, you have a chance to change your life. If you don't take it, I wish you luck in the future."

Details of Mr Ahmadi's claims were detailed at his trial in the District Court as prosecutor Ron Davies presented his closing arguments to the jury. Mr Davies said Mr Ahmadi had always been prosecuted on the basis he was a third-rung smuggler, not that he was the leader at the top.

He said the crown's case was based on evidence presented during the nine-week trial and the jury should rely on this. "Whatever propositions the defence put to you, the evidence will never go away," Mr Davies said.

But Mr Ahmadi's lawyer, Jonathan Davies, said all his client had done was help refugees livingin a state of uncertainty in Indonesia.

"What Hadi did amounted to no more than helping refugees, helping refugees help themselves, rather than helping smugglers," Mr Davies told the court.

He also questioned the definition of "facilitating", as Mr Ahmadi is charged with four counts of illegally facilitating a group of five or more people to come to Australia during 2001.

"Surely getting medicine and medical treatment for a sick child is not 'facilitating'?"

Mr Davies urged the jury members to stick to their guns in the jury room if they had reasonable doubts about the case. "No matter how tired or stressful or how long (the) deliberations, I ask you to hang in there for Hadi," he said.

He also told the jury it had to put aside any feelings of sympathy or prejudice towards Mr Ahmadi at a time when the issue had reached fever pitch.

The trial continues.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/.../afp-threatened-to-put-me-in-a-hole/story-e6frg6nf-1225897727719

Reliability doubts over key witnesses

July 28, 2010 - 4:19PM
AAP / The Age

Defence lawyers for accused people smuggler Hadi Ahmadi have told a Perth jury to question the reliability of key witnesses before delivering a verdict.

In the West Australian District Court on Wednesday, Ahmadi's lawyers said some of the witnesses made deals with the Australian Federal Police for reduced sentences in exchange for giving evidence against their client.

The 34-year-old Iraqi is accused of working with people smugglers in Indonesia to help asylum seekers get onto boats bound for Christmas Island.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Davies said some witnesses, whose names have been suppressed, had given inconsistent accounts of Ahmadi's involvement in people smuggling.

Mr Davies said the witnesses were "unreliable", "corrupt" and unless their evidence could be independently confirmed by other evidence, they could not be trusted.

"That is for you to decide," he told the jury.

The defence also raised questions about the reliability of other witnesses who gave conflicting descriptions of Ahmadi.

One witness described him as "tall" and one described him as "not tall", although both said he was albino.

Ahmadi was extradited to Australia from Indonesia on people smuggling charges in May 2009.

He has pleaded not guilty to 21 charges of illegally assisting more than 900 asylum seekers on four boats to reach Christmas Island between March and August 2001.

The 10-week trial continues.

http://news.theage.com.au/.../reliability-doubts-over-key-witnesses-20100728-10vqk.html

Federal police 'paid boatpeople witness'

Debbie Guest
The Australian
July 29, 2010 12:00AM

An Iraqi double agent was rewarded by the Australian Federal Police with $250,000 of taxpayers' money.

Questioning the credibility of Waleed Sultani, Mr Ahmadi's lawyer, Jonathan Davies, said his evidence should be considered in light of the deal he did with the AFP after offering information on people-smuggling in Jakarta, that he'd exaggerated his evidence against accused people-smuggler Hadi Ahmadi and should not be trusted.

"Is he playing a tune for which a piper has paid handsomely?" Mr Davies asked a Perth District Court jury yesterday.

Mr Davies said Mr Sultani was given indemnity by the AFP and brought to Australia, where he is now a citizen, despite being rejected by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The former Iraqi soldier has been one of the key witnesses at Mr Ahmadi's nine-week trial, and has claimed he worked alongside his fellow countryman in arranging the movement of asylum-seekers to boats leaving for Australia in 2001. He said that during this period he was in continual contact with the AFP.

"He made a bob on both sides of the equation," Mr Davies said.

"Approach what he has to say with great caution, don't accept anything from him unless backed up by others."

Mr Davies said Mr Sultani was a man in want of revenge after feeling cheated by a smuggler who took his $2000 but failed to get him on a boat to Australia.

He said Mr Sultani was "gloriously vague" about his dealings with Mr Ahmadi and made little mention of him to the AFP.

The defence warned the jury of discrepancies between descriptions of Mr Ahmadi's identity given by some of the 38 asylum-seeker witnesses. Some witnesses have described Mr Ahmadi as an albino but there have been different accounts of his height.

The defence questioned whether the asylum-seekers were "absolutely sure" they were talking about Mr Ahmadi.

In closing submissions to the jury earlier this week, the prosecution said Mr Ahmadi's guilt lay in the evidence, and not "wild assertions" made by the defence.

The trial continues.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/federal-police-paid-witness/story-fn59niix-1225898183577

Jury told to ignore ABC's Four Corners

August 3, 2010 - 3:59PM
AAP / The Age

A judge presiding over a people smuggling trial in Perth has told the jury to disregard a television program and ensure it does not influence their verdict.

In the District Court on Tuesday, Judge Andrew Stavrianou gave the jury direction on the matter in case they had watched the ABC's Four Corners program on Monday night about people smugglers in Indonesia.

The program featured a man who served two years in an Australian prison for people smuggling nearly 10 years ago.

Four Corners alleged he had returned to people smuggling in Indonesia and the program secretly filmed him at work.

The man was mentioned in the trial of accused people smuggler Hadi Ahmadi although Ahmadi was not mentioned in the program.

Ahmadi was extradited from Indonesia to Australia in May 2009, accused of working with people smugglers in Indonesia.

The 34-year-old Iraqi has pleaded not guilty to 21 charges of illegally assisting more than 900 asylum seekers on four boats to reach Christmas Island between March and August 2001.

Judge Stavrianou told the jury during his summary of the case that the Four Corners program was "utterly irrelevant" to the case against Ahmadi.

"I can't stop you from seeing things and hearing things," he said.

Concerns had been raised about people smuggling becoming a major media focus during the election campaign and the ABC program having an unintentional interference with the Ahmadi case.

Judge Stavrianou reminded the jury of their responsibility and the oath they took to hand down a verdict that was based on the facts of the case rather than any emotion, politics or media hype.

He told the jury to "put any prejudice or sympathy out of the equation" and to act "with complete impartiality, with complete detachment".

"You decide (a verdict) based on the evidence," he said.

The trial continues.

http://news.theage.com.au/.../jury-told-to-ignore-abcs-four-corners-20100803-114ik.html

Jail risk for Iraqi who refused to act for AFP in boatpeople battle

Debbie Guest
The Australian
August 07, 2010 12:00AM

HADI Ahmadi's self-described "unfortunate life" could have become a comfortable existence in suburban Australia.

He could have made the dramatic lifestyle switch if he had played the game federal agents wanted and switched from alleged low-rung smuggler to undercover snitch.

The offer was on the table: help federal police crack people-smuggling operations throughout Indonesia, Ahmadi told a Perth court, and the AFP would give him the most sought-after prize of all -- Australian citizenship.

The 35-year-old Iraqi told the court he had no reason to doubt them after the man he allegedly worked with, Waleed Sultani, allegedly turned informer and secured Australian citizenship and more than $377,000 -- including a $250,000 one-off "reward" -- compliments of the Australian taxpayer.

But Ahmadi, who is now facing a jail term as a jury decides his fate, says his strong morals -- instilled by his Shi'ite Muslim cleric father -- could not allow him to denounce those responsible. The 10-week trial has also revealed the clandestine workings of the AFP in Indonesia.

The 12-member jury has been deliberating since Thursday and is yet to decide whether Ahmadi is guilty of four counts of facilitating the passage of five or more people who arrived in Australia on four boats carrying 911 people in 2001.

Ahmadi, who is a diabetic with a heart condition, told the court he was living in Indonesia on a small allowance from UN refugee agency UNHCR when Sultani, a former Iraqi soldier, rang him from Australia in 2003 and told him to call an AFP officer known as "Mr Mike".

According to Ahmadi, Sultani was motivated by revenge to become an informant after being ripped off by an Indonesian-based people smuggler in 2000.

Ahmadi told the court he took Sultani's advice and the federal agent known as Mr Mike told him at a meeting in Indonesia that the AFP wanted information on smugglers and boats heading towards Australia. Ahmadi said he told him: "It is a bit hard for me whether they are illegally here or not, but I can't dob on them to get something . . . it is wrong for me."

Ahmadi told the court Mr Mike paid him just 100,000 rupiah, about $12, for his "transportation" costs and, during a meeting weeks later, the officer offered him just 50,000 rupiah for more information. "I felt, how cheap am I . . . I told him: 'No, Mr Mike. Thanks, I don't need this money' . . . we didn't come to agreement," he told the court.

In about 2007, Ahmadi said, he was again approached by another AFP officer, Bernard Young. Ahmadi told the court that Young told him he would be "put in a hole" if he did not co-operate with authorities.

In 2007 Ahmadi, in Indonesia and still registered with the UNHCR, was deported to Iraq, a country he says he was forced to flee as a child.

But he returned to Indonesia in 2008 where he was arrested at the airport.

In May last year, Ahmadi became the first alleged smuggler to be extradited to Australia under the Rudd government's people-smuggling deal with Indonesia.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/.../jail-risk-for-iraqi-refused-battle/story-fn59niix-1225902283695

Trial shines spotlight on people smuggling trade

Lloyd Jones
August 12, 2010
AAP / WA today

A 10-week jury trial in Perth has revealed the workaday lives of people smugglers in Indonesia and covert Australian Federal Police operations to thwart them.

Iraqi-Iranian man Hadi Ahmadi has been found guilty on two charges of illegally assisting 562 asylum seekers to reach Australia on two boats in 2001.

But the jury in the District Court in Perth last night found the 35-year-old albino man not guilty on a third charge and could not reach a verdict on a fourth after three days of deliberation.

In May 2009, Ahmadi became the first person to be extradited to Australia from Indonesia on people smuggling charges following an agreement between Canberra and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Ahmadi pleaded not guilty to charges of illegally assisting more than 900 asylum seekers to reach Christmas Island on four boats between March and August 2001.

The trial heard from dozens of witnesses including convicted people smugglers who have served time in Australian jails and former asylum seekers who have been granted residency.

A picture emerged of Ahmadi's low-level role in people smuggling operations co-ordinated out of Jakarta.

The jury heard he had escaped persecution in Iraq where his father, a Shi'ite cleric, had been killed during a failed uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

Ahmadi, who has been recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, twice tried to reach Australia by boat, but engine failure and a storm foiled those attempts.

He ended up assisting people smugglers, finding accommodation for asylum seekers, collecting fees and taking them by bus to beaches where boats were waiting to take them to Australian waters.

Ahmadi told the court he helped them for free out of a sense of duty and compassion for people who could face persecution or death if deported back to their countries.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Davies said Ahmadi had been the victim of a people smuggler, losing $US2000 ($A2240) in his failed attempts to reach Australia.

"He lost his own money to a people smuggler ... and did what he did to survive and help his fellow refugees."

The court heard that Ahmadi had been approached by Australian officials in Jakarta to work undercover for them against the people smugglers, but he had declined.

A convicted people smuggler whose name was suppressed said he saw Ahmadi many times in Jakarta hotels at people smuggling meetings and on beaches where boats were loaded with asylum seekers.

The witness, who has served prison time in Australia but had his sentence cut for assisting authorities, said such operations needed a lot of funds "including to pay authorities to do what I have to do".

He said Indonesian immigration authorities didn't "give a damn" and if asylum seekers didn't get into trouble they could stay anywhere and go about freely even if they overstayed their visas.

An Iraqi asylum seeker who worked for people smugglers in Java while acting as a paid informant for Australian Federal Police (AFP) told the court he worked alongside Ahmadi in 2001.

Waleed Sultani, a former tank commander in the Iraqi army and now an Australian citizen, said Ahmadi collected money from passengers in US dollars to pay a people smuggling organiser.

Sultani said he regularly reported to the Australian embassy in Jakarta on people smuggling activities and considered it payback after he lost $US2000 ($A2240) to a smuggler who failed to get him to Australia.

He gave evidence in the trials of other people smugglers and said he received a $250,000 reward for his work for the AFP.

Sultani said Ahmadi's family was well known in Iraq and "of very high character".

Ahmadi faces a maximum 20-year jail term when sentenced by Judge Andrew Stavrianou on September 23.

http://www.watoday.com.au/.../trial-shines-spotlight-on-smuggling-trade-20100812-1214w.html

Australian court finds guilty people smuggler extradited from Indonesia

Australia Network News
August 11, 2010, 5:00pm WST

The first person to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia to face people smuggling charges has been found guilty on two charges.

Hadi Ahmadi was brought to Perth in June last year after the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, approved his extradition.

The 35-year-old stood trial over ten weeks, accused of helping to organise four boats of asylum seekers who travelled to Christmas Island between March and August, 2001.

He was found guilty of helping organize two boats carrying more than 550 people, mainly from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.

Ahmadi, who's a dual Iraqi and Iranian citizen, was found not guilty of a third charge while the jury couldn't reach a verdict on a fourth.

He faces a maximum 20 year jail term.

http://australianetworknews.com/stories/201008/2980420.htm

People smuggler could get 20 years

Debbie Guest
The Australian
August 12, 2010 12:00AM

An Iraqi albino touted as a people-smuggling "kingpin" has been convicted of smuggling up to 562 asylum-seekers from Indonesia nine years ago.

A Perth District Court jury last night found Hadi Ahmadi guilty on two counts of facilitating the passage of five or more asylum-seekers to Australia on two boats carrying 562 people in 2001.

On a similar charge, he was found not guilty and on a fourth charge, the 12-member jury -- which has deliberated for three days -- could not reach a verdict.

This leaves the commonwealth open to pursuing the charge, and three lesser alternatives, at a later date.

As the first guilty verdict was read out, Ahmadi showed little emotion and bowed his head.

When he heard he was not guilty on one charge, he nodded towards the jury and supported himself on the railing of the dock.

Ahmadi, 35, who has diabetes and a heart condition, was described at the time of his arrest in 2008 as a "people-smuggling kingpin" and in May last year became the first person to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia for people-smuggling charges.

He now faces a maximum jail term of 20 years when he is sentenced on September 23.

Because his offences go back to 2001, before new laws were introduced, he does not face a mandatory minimum jail term.

During the marathon 10-week trial, the jury heard how asylum-seekers arriving in Indonesia already had Ahmadi's phone number and were told to contact him so their passage to Australia could be arranged.

One asylum-seeker gave evidence that Ahmadi checked off the passengers boarding a boat headed to Christmas Island and told one man he could not get on because he had not paid.

In handing down their verdict, the jury agreed with prosecutor Ron Davies QC that Ahmadi was "no tool".

But Mr Davies never alleged Ahmadi was a "kingpin" of the smuggling trade and instead told the jury he was a "third-rung" smuggler.

Ahmadi's defence was that he had simply helped desperate asylum-seekers in Indonesia with accommodation and medical needs.

The son of a prominent Iraqi Islamic cleric said he was forced to flee to Iran as a child because his father's life was threatened by Saddam Hussein's regime.

He said he went to Indonesia as an asylum-seeker himself but was ripped off by a smuggler who took his money but never secured him a seat on a boat to Australia.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/../smuggler-could-get-20-years/story-e6frg6n6-1225904139768

Iraqi convicted of people smuggling in Australia

The Associated Press
Aug 12, 2010 - 08:56AM

PERTH, Australia - An Iraqi man was convicted of people smuggling after a jury determined he had helped hundreds of asylum seekers reach Australia by boat.

Hadi Ahmadi, who in 2009 became the first person extradited to Australia from Indonesia on people smuggling charges, was found guilty in the Western Australia state District Court in Perth on Wednesday. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

He had pleaded not guilty to charges that he helped smuggle more than 900 asylum seekers on four boats from Indonesia to Australia over six months in 2001. The jury found him guilty of helping organize two of those boats.

Australia is increasingly targeted by asylum seekers from the Middle East and Asia who often fly to Indonesia then pay people smugglers to ship them in rickety boats to Australian islands in the Indian Ocean.

Prosecutors told the court that Ahmadi had been working for a leading Indonesian people smuggler, Achmad Olong. Olong is serving a five-year prison term in Australia after being extradited from Thailand in 2007 and pleading guilty to smuggling 353 people to Australia.

Ahmadi's attorney, Jonathan Davies, said Ahmadi was a refugee who had fled Iraq and had not been paid to help his fellow asylum seekers.

http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1344872

Extradited man convicted of people smuggling charges

ABC Current Affairs Radio - AM
David Weber
Thursday, August 12, 2010 08:18:34

TONY EASTLEY: The first person to be extradited from Indonesia to face people smuggling charges has been found guilty in the Perth District Court.

Dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen Hadi Ahmadi was charged with helping organise four boatloads of asylum seekers to Christmas Island in 2001.

Last night after a trial lasting 10 weeks a jury found Ahmadi guilty on charges relating to two of the boats.

David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: Hadi Ahmadi showed little reaction after the verdicts were delivered. The 35 year old only lowered his head. He faces 20 years in prison.

Hadi Ahmadi is a Shiite Muslim who fled persecution in Iraq. He made it to Indonesia which is where he worked with the smugglers.

People who now live in Australia told the court how they paid thousands of dollars to people smugglers and their assistants.

The prosecution had said Ahmadi was working for the "number one people smuggler" in Indonesia at the time.

Witnesses told the court how Ahmadi was present at various stages of the process. The court heard how Ahmadi organised accommodation in Indonesia and collected money. He also attended meetings of people smugglers and their associates.

One prosecution witness Waleed Sultani gave detailed evidence of Ahmadi's involvement. Mr Sultani also worked for the people smugglers but decided to take revenge on them after losing thousands of dollars in failed attempts to get to Australia.

Waleed Sultani became an informant. He was paid $250,000 by the Australian Federal Police and given Australian citizenship. His evidence has helped convict other people smugglers in Australian courts.

Hadi Ahmadi sat quietly throughout the 10 week trial. During earlier appearances in court he'd claimed he was a "political scapegoat" and a "pawn".

The United Nations has declared him to be a refugee but it would appear that his home will be an Australian prison for some time yet.

Ahmadi will be sentenced next month.

TONY EASTLEY: David Weber reporting.

http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2010/s2980610.htm

Lengthy jail term urged for people smuggler

ABC Online News
First posted Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:34pm AEST
Updated Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:45pm AEST

A Perth judge had been urged to impose a significant jail term on the first person to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia for a people smuggling offence.

Hadi Ahmadi, 35, was found guilty by a jury of helping to organise two boats carrying more than 550 asylum seekers to travel to Christmas Island in 2001.

Ahmadi helped the asylum seekers with travel and accommodation in Indonesia.

He was brought to Perth in June last year after Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono approved his extradition.

Prosecutors have called for him to receive a substantial jail term to try to deter other people smugglers, although the defence has urged the judge to take into consideration Ahmadi's poor health.

He will be sentenced tomorrow.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/23/3020119.htm

Hadi Ahmadi gets minimum four years for people smuggling

ABC Radio Current Affairs - PM
David Weber
Friday, September 24, 2010 18:28:00

MARK COLVIN: A Perth court has sentenced the first people smuggler to be extradited from Indonesia.

Hadi Ahmadi has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, with a non-parole period of four.

The dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen was found guilty last month of helping bring two boatloads of asylum seekers to Christmas Island in 2001.

The judge said that while Ahmadi was not a primary organiser, his conduct was clearly of importance.

David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: Justice Andrew Stavrianou said a clear message must be sent. The judge said he accepted Hadi Ahmadi was a middle man in the operation. He said the 35-year-old was of good character and had not re-offended since 2001. Yet there was no alternative but to impose a prison sentence.

Outside the court, Hadi Ahmadi's lawyer Jonathan Davies made a statement on behalf of his client.

JONATHAN DAVIES: The sentence handed down today is severe as is mandated by Australian law. The offences are such that in determining sentence, reduced weight is given to the personal circumstances of Mr Ahmadi.

Mr Ahmadi's trial has been a reminder of the bitterness in the Australian community with respect to those who have no choice in life but to seek safety and freedom on our shores.

This case revealed the danger to refugees in Indonesia at the time; a danger which was largely forgotten by the Australian Government. It revealed action by the federal police at the relevant time, which seemed to increase danger of repatriation of refugees from Indonesia to their countries of origin.

DAVID WEBER: Several of the witnesses who gave evidence against Ahmadi were people who came by boat in 2001 and are now settled in Australia.

The statement read by Jonathan Davies suggested that Hadi Ahmadi still felt some pride in his role.

JONATHAN DAVIES: The case is a sad reminder of the status of Australia's obligations to refugees under international law.

Mr Ahmadi hopes that history will judge him in a far kinder light and asks you to remember that there are members of our community who will forever be Hadi's Australians, thank you.

DAVID WEBER: The prosecutor had said the penalty needed to reflect the concept of general deterrence.

But criminologist Michael Grewcock says he believes people smugglers won't be stopped by the prospect of prison sentences.

MICHAEL GREWCOCK: The reality is that people move for reasons of fear and because they're in need of protection. The people who assist them, and this Mr Ahmadi's a case in point, are often people who are travelling with them or who have protection needs of their own.

He is someone who, like the people he was travelling with, sought the protection of the Australian state of something like the 900 people he was accused of bringing into Australia. Over 860 of them have been granted refugee status. Another way of looking at Mr Ahmadi would be as someone who's served a humanitarian purpose by bringing these people here.

DAVID WEBER: How do you think the Australian Government, the current Australian Government, or future governments will be able to stem the tide?

MICHAEL GREWCOCK: Well, I'd query whether or not there is a tide to be stemmed.

DAVID WEBER: But there may be greater numbers in the future though.

MICHAEL GREWCOCK: Well, the reality is that the reason why people attempt to enter by boat is largely because the formal methods are closed down to them. The numbers of people coming in, even though now it's up around the three or 4,000 mark for this year, is still tiny compared to the people who are refugees globally and it's tiny compared to the numbers of people who seek asylum through more formal routes, through flying in and so on and so I think that we need a sense of proportion about what we're talking about.

Really if the Government was serious about getting rid of people smuggling, it would open the front door, it wouldn't leave the back door as the only option for people.

People smugglers aren't the reason why people seek protection. It's the wars in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan; the persecution of the Tamils and so on in Sri Lanka, these are the causes of refugee flight, not people smugglers.

MARK COLVIN: The criminologist Michael Grewcock of the University of New South Wales speaking to David Weber.

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s3021541.htm

People smuggler gets 7.5 years in jail

Angie Raphael
September 24, 2010 - 1:19PM
AAP / The Age

The first man to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia on people smuggling charges could be out of prison in less than two years, after being jailed for a maximum of seven and a half years.

Iraqi-Iranian man Hadi Ahmadi, 35, was found guilty by a Perth jury on two counts of illegally assisting 562 asylum seekers to reach Australia on two boats in 2001.

Ahmadi, who has been recognised as a refugee by the UN High Commission for Refugees, twice tried to reach Australia by boat, but engine failure and a storm foiled those attempts.

He ended up assisting people smugglers, finding accommodation for asylum seekers, collecting fees and taking them by bus to beaches where boats were waiting to take them to Australian waters.

In the District Court on Friday, Judge Andrew Stavrianou sentenced Ahmadi to five years in prison for each count, but reduced the sentence to seven and a half years in total.

Ahmadi will be eligible for parole in four years and has had his sentence back-dated to June 29, 2008, which means he could be out of prison by June 28, 2012.

Judge Stavrianou said Ahmadi had "little prospect of re-offending" but he had to give him a severe penalty to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

"You were not the primary organiser ... you were a middle man," he told Ahmadi.

But Judge Stavrianou said he had to sentence Ahmadi in a way that would deter other people smugglers from trying to bring people to Australia illegally.

He also noted that Ahmadi would be serving a prison sentence in a foreign prison which would be a "hardship" to him and his family, including his ailing mother and nine siblings.

On Thursday, defence lawyer Jonathan Davies pleaded with Judge Stavrianou to take into consideration Ahmadi's ill-health and limited involvement in people smuggling.

Mr Davies said there were "unusual factors" in Ahmadi's case, which Judge Stavrianou accepted.

Mr Davies said Ahmadi was likely to be deported after serving his non-parole period back to Iraq where he would be entitled to residency, but could not return to Iran.

Ahmadi has heart problems, very poor eyesight and "a degree" of depression, Mr Davies said.

"He has had a life of particular misfortune," he said.

Mr Davies said that although Ahmadi had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, he was now remorseful for his participation in people smuggling.

http://news.theage.com.au/.../people-smuggler-gets-75-years-in-jail-20100924-15pug.html

People smuggler jailed in Perth court

ABC Online News
First posted Fri Sep 24, 2010 12:29pm AEST
Updated Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:39pm AEST

The first man to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia for a people smuggling offence has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail in the Perth District Court.

Hadi Ahmadi, 35, was found guilty by a jury of helping to organise two boats carrying more than 550 asylum seekers to travel to Christmas Island in 2001.

He helped the asylum seekers, who were mainly from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, with travel and accommodation in Indonesia.

Ahmadi was extradited from Indonesia in June last year to face the charges.

Judge Andrew Stavrianou backdated Ahmadi's sentence to take into account the time spent in jail, making him eligible for parole in June 2012.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/24/3021122.htm

Smuggler drops bid to stay

Debbie Guest
The Australian
August 17, 2012

THE first people-smuggler to be extradited from Indonesia has abandoned a bid for asylum in Australia and was due to be flown to Iran last night, despite his fears he would be arrested at the airport.

Iraqi-born albino Hadi Ahmadi was convicted in 2010 of smuggling up to 562 asylum-seekers to Australia but maintained yesterday that he had been made a scapegoat and was simply trying to help people escape persecution.

The albino was released from jail in June after parole and time already served was factored into his 7 1/2-year sentence. Since his release he has been held at Perth Immigration Detention Centre and planned to apply for refugee status after putting together his claim for asylum from prison.

Speaking from inside the detention centre yesterday, Ahmadi, 37, told The Australian that he decided to no longer pursue a claim for asylum because he could not handle another day of detention and wanted to see his mother and Indonesian girlfriend.

He said he was worried about being detained at the airport by Iranian officials but had decided to accept the risk and agree to return to Iran, the country he and his family fled to in the 1990s because of persecution from Saddam Hussein's regime.

"I was not sure I would survive my prison time, I was dying everyday. I was counting the hours, days, weeks, months," he said. "I want to be free now. I don't care what happens, I just want to change the situation."

At the time of his arrest in Indonesia in 2008, Ahmadi was described by authorities as a people-smuggling "kingpin". No evidence of financial gain emerged during his 10-week trial in Perth in 2010, and his lawyer Jonathan Davies argued that his client had simply helped refugees who were living in a state of uncertainty in Indonesia.

Yesterday Ahmadi said he did not understand why he could be jailed for 7 1/2 years when he was helping asylum-seekers. He said he made no money from what he did and others who did pocket large sums were not pursued like he was. "I was helping them get food, accommodation, helping their kids go to hospital."

During his trial, Ahmadi said he was offered a deal by Australian Federal Police under which he would get citizenship if he gave them intelligence on smuggling operations.

Yesterday Ahmadi said he could not accept the deal because it was morally wrong. He added that his Indonesian girlfriend had waited for him since his arrest and she planned to go to Iran.

An immigration spokeswoman refused to confirm Ahmadi's return to Iran.

www.theaustralian.com.au/.../smuggler-drops-bid-to-stay/story-e6frg6so-1226452136307

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