An Afghan man who played a major role in organising the transport of more than 200 asylum seekers from Indonesia to WA has been sentenced to 12 years in jail, but could be freed next year with time already served.
Sayed Abbas, 35, made travel arrangements for the passengers, who arrived on three overcrowded boats in 2009 and 2011, and took payments from each ranging from $5000 to $10,000.
Abbas, who was imprisoned in Indonesia before being extradited to WA, sent a letter to the District Court describing his desperate life in his war-torn country, which was read out on Friday.
Having had no education, he cannot read or write, so he had another inmate write the letter for him.
Abbas said he had no employment prospects in Afghanistan and wanted to provide for his mother and sister but had to flee the Taliban.
He met his wife in Indonesia, had a daughter and says he hates himself for the suffering his offending and imprisonment has caused them.
The court heard he lived in a refugee camp for five years, endured torture while incarcerated in Indonesia, and now suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I have been punished more than most in my circumstance," he wrote.
Abbas said that when he was first jailed, he found it hard to understand what he'd done wrong, but he now had "nothing but remorse".
Judge Andrew Stavrianou said Abbas played a substantial role in a reasonably well-organised enterprise.
"You had authority and it was at a high level," he said.
Abbas was motivated by financial gain and was prepared to run the risk of punishment, the judge said.
His crimes put the lives and safety of those on board at risk, and were a serious violation of Australia's sovereignty, Judge Stavrianou said.
"The offences you committed were clearly serious."
The Abbas trial in WA ran for two months last year and involved thousands of pages of case notes.
Abbas was ordered to serve at least seven years and three months in jail.
Taking into account time he has already served, he will be eligible for parole in August next year.
Australian Associated Press