Calls of injustice in smuggling case

  • 07/01/2016
A supplied image of a boat used by Indonesian people smugglers in Rote island (AAP)
A supplied image of a boat used by Indonesian people smugglers in Rote island (AAP)

An Indonesian fisherman who could be jailed for eight years for skippering a New Zealand-bound asylum seeker boat has questioned why smugglers further up the chain are free.

Yohanis Humiang, 35, has said he negotiated with an Australian official a US$32,000 payment before turning the boat with 65 people on board back to Indonesia in May last year.

He and five crew were charged with people smuggling and the prosecution is seeking eight years' jail.

Before his court hearing in Rote on Thursday (local time), he told reporters the prosecutor's request put them in the same class as murderers.

"The main perpetrator, we have revealed him and he has been caught by the police," he said, referring to Sri Lankan Vishvanathan Thineskumar, alias Kugan, who is also on trial.

"We helped them all and this should lighten our sentence.

"Please don't let such people run free in Indonesia untouched by the law.

"Do you think it's fair that we are punished heavily while those who control the business can get in and out of Indonesia easily?"

The Indonesian who promised Yohanis 150 million rupiah (NZ$16,000) on delivering the passengers to New Zealand – a man known as Armen Yohanis – remains at large, as well as other suspects who have been named in the network.

Kugan is accused of preparing the logistics, boats and recruiting the passengers and crew for the May journey.

Yohanis has previously said the Australian officer gave the cash to the fishermen to start alternative businesses to accepting people-smuggling voyages.

Not all of it was passed on to the men's families and the cash is not being presented in the trial as evidence.

Yohanis said his wife was devastated at the prospect of eight years' jail, from a maximum 15 years possible.

"She screamed hysterically when I told her," he said.

"Who would do this kind of job when it ends in this situation?

"I'm sad that I missed Christmas and New Year with my family, that I had to spend it behind the bars of Rote Ndao Prison."

The trial continues.

NZN