Jihadist court plea is a ploy, says minister
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.