Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Accused people smuggler fights extradition

Maythem Radhi is wanted by Australian authorities. Photo / 60 Minutes, Ch. 9 Australia
Maythem Radhi is wanted by Australian authorities. Photo / 60 Minutes, Ch. 9 Australia

A man accused of playing a part in a people-smuggling journey in which 353 people died when their boat sank off Australia has returned to court to fight against extradition.

Maythem Kamil Radhi is accused of being part of the operation in 2001 which ended with the sinking of the boatload of asylum-seekers who were trying to get from Indonesia to Australia.

The Iraqi refugee has lived in Auckland with his family since March 2009, but is wanted in Australia for his alleged role in the 2001 Siev (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel) X disaster.

Australian authorities want Radhi extradited, a move supported by New Zealand police.

In 2012, a New Zealand District Court ruled Radhi to be extraditable.

However, that was overturned in the High Court because Radhi's charges were seen not to meet the threshold for extradition at the time of his alleged offending.

Police won the right to go to the Court of Appeal in May last year.

Lawyer for the police Christine Gordon QC told the Court of Appeal today that Radhi had "done everything in his power" to commit the offence, but factors outside of his control took over and the asylum-seekers did not make it to their destination.

The offence was that he aided the immigrants to attempt to illegally enter Australia, she said.

"None of the passengers had visas."

The act of aiding people-smuggling would almost always happen outside of New Zealand borders but was captured within New Zealand's laws, Ms Gordon said.

Radhi's lawyer Roger Chambers told the court the events were "tragic beyond measure".

But he said that for a crime to have been committed, the boat would have needed to reach New Zealand.

The vessel sank either in Indonesian waters, or it "may have edged" into international waters, but it was definitely not in Australia waters, he said.

If the appeal is allowed, the case will go back to the district court.

Justices Ellen France, John Wild and Douglas White of the Appeal Court reserved their decision.


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