IS ‘men­tor’ to ac­cused

Court told of Mel­bourne man’s link to ter­ror

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - JAMES DOWL­ING james.dowl­

A KEY Is­lamic State spokesman is the ji­hadi men­tor of an al­leged Mel­bourne ex­trem­ist.

No­to­ri­ous hate preacher Robert “Musa” Ceran­to­nio re­ferred to a shad­owy Is­lamic State fig­ure known as Yahya Abu Has­san as his “teacher and men­tor.”

It has been re­vealed “Yahya” is Amer­i­can con­vert John Ge­orge­las and he and Mr Ceran­to­nio were in con­tact be­fore the Mel­bourne man’s ar­rest in May for for­eign in­cur­sion of­fences.

Mr Ceran­to­nio and five other men were charged af­ter they were stopped north of Cairns al­legedly tow­ing a boat to Cape York, which they would then use to smug­gle them­selves to ji­hadi groups in Asia, it was al­leged.

It is not clear if Mr Ceran­to­nio’s co-ac­cused were in touch with the Amer­i­can Yahya but at least two other Aus­tralians are known to have been in con­tact with the se­nior Is­lamic State fig­ure.

As Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors mon­i­tored Mr Ceran­to­nio for 10 months be­fore he fled to Queens­land, in­ves­ti­ga­tors cap­tured sev­eral con­ver­sa­tions where Mr Ceran­to­nio would talk about his men­tor Yahya.

In a Mel­bourne Mag­is­trates’ Court bail ap­pli­ca­tion for a co-ac­cused, the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice state­ment of facts listed al­leged in­ter­cepted con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Mr Ceran­to­nio and Yahya in his Syr­ian bolt­hole in May 2015.

The Amer­i­can used en­crypted mes­sag­ing ser­vices, which were re­cov­ered from Mr Ceran­to­nio’s phone, to record a mes­sage where he vouched for an­other man in Syria who had been in con­tact with Mr Ceran­to­nio. “Brother I just wanted to let you know that he is a good brother and an old friend of mine,” the mes­sage said.

A few months later in Oc­to­ber Mr Ceran­to­nio al­legedly tried to call Syr­ian phone num­bers at­trib­uted to Yahya but when he could not get through the AFP al­lege Mr Ceran­to­nio had told his friends he feared his “teacher” had been killed.

In an­other in­ter­cepted con­ver­sa­tion in De­cem­ber 2015, Mr Ceran­to­nio told Syd­ney psy­chol­o­gist Hanan Dover that his “friend and teacher” had sur­vived heavy bomb­ing but two oth­ers had been killed.

Yahya met Mr Ceran­to­nio and other Aus­tralians through on­line ji­hadi fo­rums, al­though both men had lived in Egypt.

Yahya, a Texas na­tive and Is­lamic con­vert, has re­port­edly writ­ten a num­ber of ar­ti­cles for Is­lamic State’s key pro­pa­ganda mag­a­zines Dabiq and Ru­miyah.

He learnt clas­sic Ara­bic while in Syria be­fore the war.

In De­cem­ber Is­lamic State an­nounced its new spokesman, who took over from Abu Muham­mad al-Ad­nani who was killed in a drone strike in Au­gust, was Abu al-Has­san alMuha­jir.

The name is an ac­tive alias of John Ge­orge­las or Yahya.

Robert ‘Musa’ Ceran­to­nio

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