AUTHORITIES in Indonesia have arrested a man suspected of organising the asylum-seeker boat that sank en route to Australia last month, killing about 90 people.
A senior officer with the Indonesian National Police said the man was taken into custody on Friday and was expected to be charged with people smuggling.
The officer named the man as Ervan, but it is understood he is also known as Haji Irfan, who is believed to have connections to jailed people-smuggling kingpin Sayed Abbas.
Ervan is suspected of organising the fatal voyage of an asylum-seeker boat that sank on June 21 between Christmas Island and the Sunda Strait in Indonesia. “We arrested him on Friday for his involvement in arranging people smuggling related to the asylum seekers taken to Christmas Island,” the police source said yesterday.
The source said the investigation was continuing, but that the man in custody was believed to be a key member of a people-smuggling syndicate and was suspected of arranging the passage of several asylum-seeker boats to Australia. “At the moment, he’s detained in police headquarters.”
More than 200 people were believed to be aboard the boat when it left Indonesia but rescue authorities have said that an accurate figure may never be known. All 110 survivors are on Christmas Island.
The Gillard government has warned, meanwhile, that co-operation between Australian and Indonesian law enforcement authorities can have only a limited impact on the people-smuggling trade.
On the eve of her talks today with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Darwin, Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed she would raise the issue.
“But we can’t ask the President of Indonesia to solve what is an issue for the Australian Parliament, which is getting Australia’s laws in the right shape so that we can have at our disposal offshore processing options,” she told ABC radio.
With MICHELLE GRATTAN
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