Notorious people smuggler likely to walk free
By Matt Brown
The ABC News (Australia), March 24, 2010
The people smuggler responsible for trying to send more than 250 Sri Lankans to Australia last year is expected to be punished with a fine in an Indonesian court today.
Abraham Lauhenapessy, better known as Captain Bram, was arrested after the Indonesian navy intercepted his boat carrying more than 250 asylum seekers in October.
The navy acted after a personal appeal from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The smuggling king pin has been accused of sending 1,500 people on boats to Australia over his career and had only just been released from jail after doing time over a previous operation.
But because there is no people smuggling law in Indonesia, he has been charged with employing a crew without the correct authorisation and the prosecutors have recommended a $3,500 fine and a one-year suspended sentence.
This means the notorious smuggler, who did not even bother to show up at some points during this trial, will probably walk free after paying his fine.
The fact that Captain Bram told investigators that he had been sent on the smuggling job by an associate in Malaysia was not raised in court, because it was not considered relevant to proving the charge at hand.
Even when he later testified that he simply rescued the asylum seekers when he came across them by coincidence at sea, the conspiracy did not get a mention.
The chief prosecutor, Joko Subagyo, says the 20 months Captain Bram spent in jail on immigration charges as the result of a previous smuggling mission also did not rate a mention, because it was not even in the brief used in the trial.
Mr Subagyo maintains these facts were not relevant to proving the charge, but he does concede they could have helped his office argue for a stiffer sentence.
Captain Bram could have been sentenced to a maximum of two years in jail.
The Indonesian parliament is expected to start discussing a long-awaited anti-people smuggling law next month at least two years after it was first mooted.