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Australia police arrest Iraqi man over deaths of over 350 asylum seekers in 2001


MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian Federal Police said on Saturday it had charged a 43-year-old Iraqi man for his part in allegedly organizing a people smuggling venture that led to the deaths of more than 350 asylum seekers when their boat sank in 2001.

The man was taken into custody at Brisbane Airport late on Friday following his extradition from New Zealand and has been charged with "organizing groups of non-citizens to Australia," the police said in a statement.

The suspect, if convicted, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The police claim he was a part of a syndicate that organized people smuggling, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Australia. He is the third suspect to face court in the case.

"Let's not lose sight of the fact that more than 350 people died in this tragedy," the police cited Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw as saying in the statement.

"They are owed justice and we remain committed to deterring those who profit from this trade."

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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