ABC TV video still of self-styled Islamic radical Abdul Nacer Benbrika (aka Abu Bakr) during an interview with ABC-TV at his home in Melbourne.
ABC TV video still of self-styled Islamic radical Abdul Nacer Benbrika (aka Abu Bakr) during an interview with ABC-TV at his home in Melbourne.

Terrorists could soon be set free with no conditions

UP to 20 of our most notorious convicted terrorists could soon walk free from prison without even basic conditions put on their release to protect the community like internet bans or curfews.

News Corp Australia can reveal a bureaucratic mess means wannabe jihadis like the spiritual leader of Australia's biggest terror plot Abdul Nacer Benbrika could slip through federal laws meant to keep offenders at bay.

NSW courts have the power to keep convicted terrorists behind bars indefinitely but they have to prove to a "high degree of probability" that the person would commit another serious crime.

 

If they fail, the same court doesn't have the power to enforce strict post-release conditions.

This power rests with the Federal Court and would involve mounting an entirely new and long court case.

And because the offenders have served a full-term there usual parole sanctions do not apply.

It's understood Attorney-General Christian Porter is in a race against time to streamline the laws before the end of the year because of fears it will not be in place before the first high risk terror offender becomes eligible for release next year.

Attorney-General Christian Porter is in a race against time to streamline the laws. Picture: AAP
Attorney-General Christian Porter is in a race against time to streamline the laws. Picture: AAP

The Government has refused to reveal the identity of the criminal or the other 19 currently behind bars.

But News Corp understands convicted jihadis who are coming up for release include Benbrika who was last year denied parole but whose full 15 year sentence expires in 2020.

Other terrorists convicted through Operation Pendennis for their role in plotting attacks against the 2005 AFL grand final and Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor including Omar Baladjam and Mohamed Ali Elomar who have separately launched appeals recently were also likely to be on the list.

A police officer keeps the gun trained on Omar Baladjam after he was shot. Picture: Hearne Bill
A police officer keeps the gun trained on Omar Baladjam after he was shot. Picture: Hearne Bill

It would also affect Sydney architect Faheem Lodhi, the first person in Australia convicted of planning a terror attack, who in 2006 for planning to bomb the national electricity grid and the Holsworthy Barracks. He is eligible for parole next year while his sentence ends in 2024.

In a submission to a review of the laws, the Australian Human Rights Commission warned judges would be placed in the "invidious position" of having to keep someone behind bars or "dismissing an application and therefore making no order to address the risk an individual may pose".

Faheem Khalid Lodhi leaving the NSW Supreme Court after being sentenced to 20 years for planning to blow up the national electricity grid.
Faheem Khalid Lodhi leaving the NSW Supreme Court after being sentenced to 20 years for planning to blow up the national electricity grid.

Law Council of Australia president Morry Bailes said equipping the courts with a further option was essential to help keep the community safe.

"The Law Council supports the NSW regimen which gives the court a broad discretion to vary or revoke an order," he said.

Sydney silk James Renwick, who the Government has tasked with monitoring its national security legislation, recommended tough restrictions on released offenders should last three years.

Dr Renwick told a parliamentary committee that this issue was of "particular importance" because of the 20 offenders would made free in coming years.

Acting Attorney-General Greg Hunt said it was "not appropriate" to comment on individual cases of criminals currently behind bars.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: AAP

He said the Government already had legislation in place to take preventive measures to address the threat posed by individuals who may commit a terrorist act.

"The Government intends to introduce legislation to create an Extended Supervision Order scheme by the end of the year," he said.

"The purpose of the ESO scheme … would be to streamline the continuing detention order and the control order regimes led consideration and close collaboration between the Commonwealth, operational agencies, and state and territory jurisdictions."

Opposition national security spokesman Mark Dreyfus, who is also on the high-level Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, said was critical of the Government's inaction in fixing the flaw.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor supported establishing an ESO scheme. Picture: AAP
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor supported establishing an ESO scheme. Picture: AAP

He said Labor supported establishing an ESO scheme.

"The Government has so far refused to say why it has delayed legislating this measure," he said.

"It could have implemented this reform at the same time it introduced legislation for other recommendations contained in the PJCIS report in May this year."

Mohamed Ali Elomar has launched an appeal. Picture: Supplied
Mohamed Ali Elomar has launched an appeal. Picture: Supplied


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