27 Jan 2011

Suspected organiser of Christmas Island disaster detained

6:12 am on 27 January 2011

Police in Indonesia have detained a man they suspect is the people smuggler behind a boat that was shipwrecked on Christmas Island last month, killing up to 50 asylum seekers.

The ABC reports Ali Hamid, 40, is being held on an immigration charge, after being detained in a hotel in Jakarta on Wednesday night.

He is believed to be an Australian citizen of Iranian origin, but General Agung Sabar Santoso says he claims to be from Afghanistan.

"Based on the investigation, Ali Hamid was the organiser of some people smuggling operations to Australia," he said.

"Working with him was another man whose job is to find locations and arrange logistics for the departure."

The ABC reports Australian Federal Police and Indonesia worked closely together on the case.

"This is the result of very tight cooperation between Indonesian and Australian police," said General Agung.

"We have been following him for two weeks and last night we detained him."

Three crew members of the vessel appeared in court in Perth this week and are being held in custody.