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Indonesia jails human trafficker behind fatal voyage

An Indonesian court on Tuesday jailed a human trafficker for seven years after he arranged an asylum boat voyage to Australia which ended when the vessel sank with the loss of some 90 lives.

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court on Tuesday jailed a human trafficker for seven years after he arranged an asylum boat voyage to Australia which ended when the vessel sank with the loss of some 90 lives.

Javaid Mahmood, a 54-year-old Pakistani who organised the voyage which was supposed to take asylum-seekers from Indonesia to Australia in June 2012, was found guilty of people-smuggling.

The boat left Indonesia's main island of Java carrying some 200 Afghan and Pakistani asylum-seekers but almost half drowned when it went down.

Hundreds of would-be refugees have died in recent years trying to make the sea voyage from Indonesia to Australia, with people-smugglers charging huge sums for passage on rickety wooden fishing boats.

Chief judge Nasir Simanjuntak told the East Jakarta District Court that Mahmood had caused the "loss of many lives" by organising the voyage to the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

He was also found to have organised a second voyage in February 2013, which made it safely to Christmas Island.

"The defendant Javaid Mahmood has been proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing people-smuggling activities," the judge said, as he handed down the seven-year sentence.

He also ordered Mahmood to pay a fine of 800 million rupiah ($65,600).

The sentence was three years lighter than the 10 years sought by prosecutors.

The judge said an Afghan man, Dawood Amiri, who was jailed in 2013 for six years for people-smuggling, helped organise the fatal voyage.

Mahmood was arrested in May 2013. He worked with agents in Pakistan and Afghanistan to arrange trips for asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia, according to his indictment.

He charged the would-be refugees between $5,000 and $12,000 each.

Indonesia is a major transit hub for asylum-seekers from countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

The conservative government in Canberra has implemented a navy-led operation to stem the flow of asylum-seeker boats by turning them back to Indonesia when it is safe to do so, a policy which has angered Jakarta.

Australia Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that asylum-seeker arrivals had dropped to their lowest level in almost five years.

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