Indonesian gets 6 years for smuggling migrants to N. Zealand

Suspected people smuggler Abraham Louhenapessy, commonly known as "Captain Bram", sits on the defendant's chair as he waits for the start of his trial at the district court in Rote Ndao, Rote Island, Indonesia, Thursday, March 16, 2017. The Indonesian court has sentenced the people-smuggling kingpin to six years in jail and also fined him to pay 55 million rupiah ($37,400) to the state or to serve six more months in prison for organizing a trip for migrants to New Zealand in early 2015. Louhenapessy was allegedly involved in smuggling more than 1,000 people to Australia since 1999. (AP Photo/Djemi Amnifu)

ROTE NDAO, Indonesia — An Indonesian court sentenced a people-smuggling kingpin to six years in jail on Thursday for organizing a trip for migrants to New Zealand in early 2015.

Abraham Louhenapessy, known as Captain Bram, was arrested in September in western Jakarta and was convicted by the Rote Ndao District Court on Rote, a remote island on the southern end of the Indonesian archipelago.

The judicial panel led by Hiras Sitanggang also ordered Louhenapessy to pay 500 million rupiah ($37,400) to the state or serve six more months in prison.

"Based on the facts and evidence revealed during the trial, the defendant has been legally and convincingly found guilty of committing the smuggling of 65 migrants to New Zealand in 2015," Sitanggang said. He said the defendant had violated both the 2011 Law on Immigration and the Criminal Code.

Both the defendant and prosecutors, who sought a nine-year jail sentence, have not said whether they will appeal.

Prosecutors said Louhenapessy was paid 1.5 billion rupiah ($112,500) for the failed voyage, for which he bought a boat and found a crew to take the migrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka to New Zealand.

The Australian navy stopped the boat as it passed through Australian waters. It was turned back to Indonesia, with the crewmen saying they were paid by Australian officials to return to Indonesia.

The ship's captain and five crewmen were sentenced last year to jail terms ranging from 66 to 68 months.

Louhenapessy has allegedly been involved in smuggling more than 1,000 people to Australia since 1999. He was convicted and sentenced in a similar case in 2014.

Indonesia is a key transit point for migrants fleeing conflict-ridden countries to Australia.

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This story has been corrected to fix spelling of court, amount of fine.

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