Australia jails Iraqi people-smuggler for 10 years

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Iraqi man was on Wednesday sentenced to 10 years in jail by an Australian court after pleading guilty to smuggling asylum-seekers from Indonesia.

Sayed Omeid helped organise two boats carrying a total of 555 asylum-seekers to the Australian territory of Christmas Island in 2001, authorities said.

He was arrested in Malaysia in 2010 on two charges of bringing non-citizens to Australia.

Omeid, a 43-year-old reportedly from Erbil in northern Iraq, pleaded guilty to the charges in March.

He was given a non-parole period of six-and-a-half years Wednesday, with the start of his sentence backdated to September 17, 2010 when he was first detained in Malaysia, an official of the District Court of Western Australia told AFP.

Judge Mark Herron said as he handed down the sentence he did not believe Omeid's defence lawyer's argument that the Iraqi was motivated by humanitarian concerns.

"Your principal motivation was self-interest, whether it was for financial profit or assistance to family members or yourself," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Herron as saying.

The judge added that Omeid played a key role in organising the smuggling network.

"People worked for you and received instructions from you," he said.

"You exposed the passengers to potentially unsafe conditions in unreliable and overcrowded boats."

The court was told Omeid met the asylum-seekers in Malaysia, arranged their move to Indonesia and coordinated their transfers to the boats, the Australian Associated Press reported.