Not guilty of refugee smuggling

TWO Indonesian men have been found not guilty of smuggling two Rockhampton refugees and 21 other Myanmar nationals into Australia.

While all passengers on board the rickety Indonesian boat in 2010 settled in Australia, the men accused of operating the vessel spent the last week on trial for aggravated people smuggling.

Luksan Sampea and Auli were accused of driving a boat between August 15 and 21, 2010, from Indonesia to the edge of Ashmore Reef, north of Western Australia.

The 23 Myanmar nationals on board were Rohingya, an ethnic group denied citizenship in their home country.

The defence argued Sampea, the alleged mechanic, and Auli, the alleged driver, were not reckless in taking the group on board the boat without passports or visas because the group were "stateless", without nationality.

Two of the men on board the leaky boat were Abu Tahir, 22, and Mohammad Karim, 20.

Tahir and Karim told the court they were oppressed in Myanmar and paid a man in Malaysia thousands of dollars to get to Australia. The men are now living in Rockhampton where they are employed as meatworkers.

During the trial, the defence team argued Sampea and Auli were unaware they were travelling to Australia, but thought they were en route to "Pulau Pasir", or a sand island.

Indonesians are legally allowed to fish on the island.

After several hours deliberating, a jury found Sampea and Auli not guilty on Friday.



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