The Jakarta Post
The Baa District Court in Rote Ndao regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), on Thursday sentenced a ship's captain to five years and eight months in prison for attempting to transport asylum-seekers to New Zealand.
The man had been skippering a boat carrying dozens of asylum seekers that was intercepted last year by the Australian authorities.
In another hearing, the court sentenced the ship's five crew members to five years and six months' imprisonment each on similar charges.
The panel of judges also required Yohanis Humiang, the captain of motorboat KM Andika, to pay
Rp 700 million (US$50,170) in fines or serve an additional five month in prison.
Meanwhile, each of the crew members ' Marthen Karaeng, Medi Ampow, Yapi Aponno, Ivan Janny Worotitjan and Indra Reza Rumambi ' is required to pay Rp 500 million in fines or serve an additional three months in jail.
The sentences, however, are more lenient than those demanded by prosecutor Alex Selle, who sought eight years' imprisonment and
Rp 500 million in fines for each of the six defendants, who hail from Manado, North Sulawesi.
The ship's captain and his crew attended separate hearings conducted consecutively by a panel of judges presided over by Ari Wahyu Irawan and also including Rosihan and Sisere Nenohaifeto.
In Yohanis' verdict hearing, the panel of judges said the defendant had been legally and found guilty of committing a crime by sending foreign citizens abroad for personal profit.
The defendant, the judges said in their verdict, had violated Article 323 Point 1 of Law No. 17/2008 on shipping, Article 120 Point 1 of Law No. 6/2011 on immigration and Article 55 Point 1 of the Criminal Code.
'The panel of judges found no mitigating factors,' Ari said.
The five crew members, meanwhile, were found guilty of violating Article 120 Point 1 of Law No. 6/2011 and Article 55 Point 1 of the Criminal Code, according to the verdict.
'Aggravating factors include the chance of the defendants' wrongdoing encouraging foreign citizens to come to Indonesia. Mitigating factors include their being honest in admitting their wrongdoings and their having their own families,' the presiding judge said.
In May last year, Yohanis and his crew members were heading to New Zealand with 65 migrants hailing from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar when they were intercepted by an Australian Navy vessel.
After being questioned by Australian authorities aboard the ship, the asylum seekers, along with their Indonesian accomplices, agreed to return to Indonesia.
Their boat, however, sank in late May in waters near Rote Island, NTT, forcing local authorities to rescue them.
Yohanis and his crew members told the police that the Australian authorities had given each of them between $5,000 and $6,000 before releasing them.
Responding to the court's verdicts, the prosecutor and defense team both said they would take time before deciding whether to mount an appeal.
'We will take some time to consider the verdicts,' prosecutor Alex said.
In 2013, the Australian government introduced tough immigration policies in a bid to stop an influx of migrants arriving by boat. Asylum seekers arriving on boats are sent to Pacific camps, while some vessels are turned back when it is safe to do so, or taken back to their country of origin.
The military-led operation has so far helped the country significantly reduce the numbers attempting the journey from Indonesia to Australia.
In November last year, another group of asylum seekers was also forced to return to Indonesia after their boat was intercepted by Australian authorities.
Sixteen asylum seekers from India, Nepal and Pakistan arrived in the NTT provincial capital of Kupang several days later after a boat provided by the Australian Navy on which they were returning sank off the coast off West Kupang.
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