World Bulletin / News Desk
Mohammad Naghi Karimi Azar, 56, appeared at the Central Local Court, via video link from a nearby police station Thursday, according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
AAP reported that court documents show Karimi Azar allegedly facilitated the passage of 73 men, women and children between 2011 and 2013.
Karimi Azar arrived in Sydney on Wednesday night after spending two and a half years in an Indonesian jail, according to his lawyer, Archie Hallas.
He is the eighth person extradited to face people smuggling charges in Australia since 2008.
A joint statement issued Thursday by Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan praises the Indonesian government’s actions.
“His [Azar’s] extradition demonstrates the strong, effective and long-standing relationship between Australian and Indonesian law enforcement agencies,” the statement reads.
“Our intelligence tells us that people smugglers will continue to test us and they prey on the hopes of the estimated 14,000 people in Indonesia now waiting to get on to boats to Australia. Any boat attempting to come illegally to Australia will be turned back and those organizing these ventures will be tirelessly pursued.”
AAP reports that outside the court, Karimi Azar's solicitor said his client intends to plead not guilty to the charges. He did not apply for bail.
The solicitor said Karimi Azar told him he was a registered refugee with the UNHCR and that he had fled Iran in fear of persecution because he's a member of an ethnic minority. His wife and children are still in Iran.
His next court appearance is Oct. 5.
Under its hardline immigration policy, Australia launched military-led Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013 to stop anyone -- including refugees and people seeking asylum, many of who use Indonesia as a transit point -- from reaching the country irregularly by boat.
Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are held at offshore detention centers on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru and Papua New Guinea during processing procedures.