Bail win for man accused of people smuggling

A man accused of being involved in an international people-smuggling ring linked to a boat tragedy off Indonesia in which more than 200 people died was today allowed to phone his mother who lives overseas.

As part of his bail conditions, Hossain Akbar, 19, of Craigieburn, in Melbourne, had been banned from making any international phone calls after his arrest in March.

Mr Akbar appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today with his co-accused, Wasim Buka, 42, of Lalor, for a committal mention.

Magistrate Donna Bakos agreed to vary Mr Akbar's bail conditions to allow him to contact his mother.

"You can ring your mother and you can speak to your mother," Ms Bakos told Mr Akbar.

The magistrate also varied Mr Buka's bail, requiring him to report to Reservoir police three times a week instead of daily.

Mr Buka is charged with four counts of organising to bring eight people into Australia illegally between November 3 last year and January 20 this year.

Mr Akbar faces one charge of organising to bring one person into Australia illegally between December 1 last year and January 20.

The maximum penalty for each charge is 20 years' jail.

Mr Akbar and Mr Buka are to appear in court again on November 15.

Two other men from Sydney – Ali Zedan and Fadhil Zangana – are accused of being part of the same syndicate that organised the illegal travel of people from Malaysia and Indonesia to Australia on "suspected illegal entry vessels".

The Australian Federal Police told an earlier court hearing in Sydney that last November and December police intercepted telephone calls and text messages between the alleged people smugglers in Australia and their counterparts in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mr Zangana allegedly sent a text to Mr Zedan on December 17, saying: "Call me urgently, the group will be leaving today. I have to tell them what to do".

Two days later, Mr Zedan is alleged to have phoned Mr Zangana and asked if he had "heard about it"?

Mr Zangana is alleged to have replied: "Yes it's a disaster, there were 250 on that boat."

Police allege the men were talking about a boat coming to Australia carrying about 250 asylum seekers that sank near Trenggalek, Indonesia, on December 17.

The overloaded vessel sank in heavy seas off eastern Java and more than 200 people drowned.

The federal police released a statement on March 27 after the four were arrested, claiming they were "key organisers and facilitators of a people-smuggling syndicate responsible for planning and facilitating the unlawful arrival of numerous people to Australia".

"The organisers of these ventures are taking advantage of vulnerable people and are putting their lives at risk," a police spokeswoman said.

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