Three Afghan asylum seekers set fire to their boat in a deliberate act of sabotage last year, causing an explosion that killed five people, an Australian coroner ruled on Wednesday.

Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavanaugh, said he would refer his findings to the police and they would decide whether criminal charges should be brought against the three men.

“I only have to have a belief about a crime being committed, and the question of whether or not there is a sufficient basis for further investigation and prosecution is a matter for them,” he said.

Mr. Cavanaugh found that Ghulam Mohammadi, Arman Ali Brahimi and Sabzali Salman were probably trying to cripple the boat to prevent it from possibly being returned to Indonesia, where the asylum seekers had set off from.

The blast occurred aboard the wooden boat on April 16, a day after it had been intercepted by the Australian navy in Australian waters. A naval patrol boat was escorting the 47 asylum seekers to Christmas Island, a remote Indian Ocean territory where Australia has an immigration detention centre.

Five people drowned after being flung from the boat in the explosion.

Mr. Cavanaugh also found that the explosion could have been prevented if gasoline on the boat had been identified and secured by navy personnel.

However, he said more people may have died if not for the actions of the navy in rescuing people from the water.

Australia determined last October that the asylum seekers were genuine refugees and said it would resettle the 42 survivors. However, the immigration minister said at the time that any refugee convicted of an offence following the inquest would have his residence visa revoked.

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