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Alleged people smuggler

faces 89 charges

May 17, 2011 – 4:52PM

An Australian man deported from Indonesia has appeared in a Perth court on 89 people-smuggling charges, some of them relating to last year’s Christmas Island boat disaster.

Iranian-born Ali Khorram Heydarkhani was not legally represented and was not required to enter a plea when he appeared in the Magistrates Court today after being flown from Sydney on Friday.

The 40-year-old was arrested at Sydney Airport on Thursday, after being deported from Indonesia, where he had overstayed his visa.

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In court today, Mr Heydarkhani, wearing a black jacket, listened and affirmed that he understood as an interpreter translated the charges read out by magistrate Joe Cicchini.

The 89 counts against Mr Heydarkhani, who has been an Australian citizen since 2003, relate to four boatloads of asylum seekers brought to Australia between June 2010 and January this year.

One of those boats was the SIEV 221, which smashed against rocks and broke apart at Christmas Island on December 15, leading to the deaths of at least 30 people, mostly from Iran and Iraq.

The magistrate remanded Mr Heydarkhani in custody to reappear on June 9 via video link from prison and advised him to get legal representation as soon as possible.

Earlier, a man in the public gallery had approached the magistrate saying Mr Heydarkhani was not legally represented, but a court security officer told him to sit down.

The man did so and draped himself in an Aboriginal flag but was told to remove it or be held in contempt of court.

When he refused, a police prosecutor ordered him to leave and escorted him out, saying the court was “not a political arena”.

The man later told reporters he had met Mr Heydarkhani in the Perth Watch House on Saturday and wanted to help him in court.

Mr Heydarkhani was detained by Indonesian authorities on January 25 and deported for overstaying his visa, precluding the need for Australia to seek his extradition.

West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope is due to begin an inquest into the Christmas Island boat tragedy in Perth tomorrow.

The inquest will examine whether SIEV 221 was being tracked by Commonwealth agencies, and, if not, why it wasn’t under surveillance.

It will also look at the preparedness of government agencies to respond to the situation.

Later this year, a federal parliamentary committee will also examine the tragedy.

AAP   

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