Australia sends innocent man home after 1.5 years in jail
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The short, thin, nervous man in dark glasses and a surgical mask, who insisted on calling himself “Mr. X”, said he had no idea that accepting a friend’s job offer would land him in prison in a foreign country.
Mr. X, who returned to Indonesia in May following one-and-a-half years in an Australian prison told journalists at the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) office in Jakarta: “A friend of mine offered me a job as a chef on a small ship carrying tourists on a fishing trip. I accepted the offer of Rp 5 million [US$530] for the trip because I really needed the money.”
He added that he and his friend left Tanjung Priok port, North Jakarta on board the small vessel, with a smaller boat lashed behind it, in October 2010.
According to Mr. X, even after they departed he didn’t know where they were headed.
“Suddenly, late at night my friend ordered me to take charge of the vessel and continue the journey without him as he had to go back to pick up another group of tourists,” he said,
“I rejected the idea because I was suspicious, but my friend threatened me and offered to pay me more money later when I got back to Jakarta,” he added.
His friend left him and headed back to Jakarta in the smaller boat. That was when Mr. X discovered that the boat he was on was actually carrying 99 asylum seekers heading toward Australia.
“Finally I realized that I had been framed,” said Indra.
Four hours later, Australian sailors boarded the ship and took him and the passengers into custody.
Mr. X said he was taken to a detention center on Christmas Island where he spent a little over four months. There, he met other Indonesian fishermen who had been arrested for the same crime.
After that he was moved from one detention center to another until he was placed at Long Bay prison in New South Wales in February 2012 where he awaited trial.
“They treated me well during my time in prison. I gained weight, but that did nothing to lighten the pain of being separated from my family for so long,” he said.
According to Mr. X’s lawyer, Lisa Hiariej, the Indonesian consulate did very little to try to secure his release.
“The government did almost nothing to release this innocent man,” Lisa said. “Many people would have given up and admitted they were guilty because they were having difficulties understanding the language and were tired of the long legal process,” she added.
Mr. X admitted that he almost gave up due to the lack of support from the Indonesian government.
“I was stressed and disappointed because everybody, including the representatives from the Indonesian Consulate, pushed me to admit I was guilty just to speed up the process,” he said.
According to Ali Akbar Tanjung from the HRWG, around 400 Indonesian fishermen, 150 of them juveniles, were being held by Australian authorities.
“This number is only an estimate, because apparently our government has no accurate data on this — a sign of the lack of interest in releasing these people,” Ali said.
“What’s even more disappointing is that the government decided to grant clemency to Schapelle Corby in order to pave the way toward releasing these fishermen,” said Ali.
“What the government should have done was to give these people access to good attorneys, not grant clemency to Corby,” he said, referring to the young Australian woman, who was convicted of smuggling drugs into Bali. (nad)