Ji­hadist court plea is a ploy, says min­is­ter

LET­TERS TRIB­UTES

The Advertiser - - WORLD - TRACEY FER­RIER AAP

A COURT apol­ogy by Aus­tralian Is­lamic State fighter Neil Prakash is a self-serv­ing ploy that won’t be taken se­ri­ously by Aus­tralia, Vic­to­ria’s po­lice min­is­ter says.

The 26-year-old ji­hadist ap­peared via video link from prison in the Kilis Crim­i­nal Court in Turkey, where he is be­ing held on ter­ror-re­lated charges.

The top IS re­cruiter was ar­rested try­ing to cross the border from Syria into Turkey on false doc­u­ments in Oc­to­ber last year and dur­ing his short court hear­ing, ad­mit­ted to mak­ing pro­pa­ganda videos call­ing for ter­ror at­tacks in Aus­tralia.

The Mus­lim con­vert also said that while he had “some­thing to do with (it), I was not 100 per cent re­spon­si­ble”, that IS had forced him to do it, and he was “sorry for all the trou­ble I have caused in the world”.

He de­picted him­self as a young man who sim­ply wanted to learn the ways of Is­lam.

“Can I say some­thing ... I was a new Mus­lim and didn’t have the knowl­edge, so when they taught me I trusted them,” he told the court.

“While I was (in Syria and Iraq) I learned to learn knowl­edge for my­self and when I learned the truth, I tried to leave.”

Vic­to­ria’s Po­lice Min­is­ter Lisa Neville re­acted with con­tempt. “I would say he’s us­ing a court strat­egy. I don’t think we would take that very se­ri­ously,” she said yes­ter­day.

“Re­gard­less, his in­volve­ment is sig­nif­i­cant enough that Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties will con­tinue to seek his ex­tra­di­tion back here to Aus­tralia.” Vic­to­ria Po­lice Chief Com­mis­sioner Gra­ham Aston said po­lice had com­piled a brief of ev­i­dence against Prakash, and he would wait for Turkey to deal with him first.

Prakash, who is con­tin­u­ing to re­ceive Aus­tralian con­sular as­sis­tance while in Turk­ish prison, was known as the most dan­ger­ous Mid­dle East­based re­cruiter in Aus­tralia and was linked to ter­ror net­works in Mel­bourne and Syd­ney.

He has ap­peared in pro­pa­ganda videos, in­clud­ing one where he praised “my brother Nu­man” — a likely ref­er­ence to a teenager shot dead in Mel­bourne in 2014 after stab­bing two po­lice of­fi­cers.

Prakash has also been linked to a failed Mel­bourne plot to be­head a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Aus­tralia has for­mally sought his ex­tra­di­tion but un­der in­ter­na­tional pro­to­cols, Turkey has the right to deal with him first.

In May, Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull said Prakash should never be re­leased from cus­tody and ex­pressed a hope that once he was pro­cessed by Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties, Aus­tralia might get him back “within months”.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Keenan said Aus­tralia’s ex­tra­di­tion re­quest would re­main in place un­til Turk­ish pro­ceed­ings were con­cluded, in­clud­ing any cus­to­dial sen­tence a Turk­ish court might im­pose.

Mr Keenan said Turkey’s “pro­cesses need to be re­spected and al­lowed to be com­pleted”.

“We will not spec­u­late on the out­comes of a mat­ter be­fore the courts of an­other coun­try, and it is im­por­tant such mat­ters are al­lowed to run their course,” he said.

Also known as Abu Khaled al-Cam­bodi, Prakash left Aus­tralia for Syria via Malaysia in 2013.

He was in­cor­rectly re­ported to have been killed in a US air strike in Mo­sul, Iraq, in 2015.

He has fea­tured in IS pro­pa­ganda videos call­ing for at­tacks on Aus­tralia and the United States. Prakash was de­nied bail and his case was ad­journed to De­cem­ber 26.

SORRY: Neil Prakash.

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