People-smuggler extradition case before Court of Appeal

Last updated 14:40 26/06/2014

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The Court of Appeal has to decide if a refugee allegedly linked to a notorious mass asylum seeker drowning off Indonesia can be extradited to Australia to face charges there.

Maythem Kamil Radhi came to New Zealand as a refugee in 2009 but Australian authorities say that in 2001 he was in Indonesia and helped with preparations for more than 400 asylum seekers to board a fishing vessel not quite 20m long.

The unnamed vessel sank in October 2001 in rough seas off the coast of Indonesia and more than 350 people drowned.

The drownings happened during an Australian election campaign and became an election issue.

A memorial to the 353 victims has been erected in Canberra.

In February 2011 a Brisbane court issued a warrant for Iraq-born Radhi and police arrested him at his Auckland home in July 2011. He has been free on bail since then.

The warrant alleges he helped facilitate the proposed entry into Australia regardless of whether the asylum seekers had the lawful right to go there.

Most were thought to be of Middle-Eastern origin and Radhi is alleged to have been present during fare negotiations, and by controlling the movements and activities of passengers while they were in Indonesia, and helping them board the vessel.

A district court judge in Auckland decided in early 2012 that Radhi was eligible for surrender to Australian authorities. But a year later that decision was overturned in the High Court.

The police, on behalf of the Australian authorities, appealed against that decision.

The Court of Appeal today reserved its decision.

To be extradited the offence Radhi is alleged to have committed would need to have an equivalent in New Zealand law. A complicating factor is that whatever he did took place in Indonesia, and the court may have to consider whether New Zealand law could "reach" to cover acts outside New Zealand.

To be able to be extradited the alleged offence needs to carry a maximum jail term of at least 12 months. At the time the nearest New Zealand equivalent offence had a three month maximum but included the words "for each person in respect of whom the offence is committed".

Even if the Court of Appeal finds Radhi is eligible for extradition that does not end the process.

The case would go back to the District Court and perhaps the Minister of Immigration.

Two people are already in jail - in Australia and Egypt - on people smuggling charges from the same disaster.

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- The Dominion Post

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