Cameron Stewart, in The Weekend Australian, 6/7 June 2015, where the title is “Half of all terrorists hit by citizenship changes” … NOTE the striking interactive graphics which depict the suburbs of Sydney and Brisbane where individuals have been d identified and produce a photograph of each when you hit tht the right spot — Wow!!
Half of all Australians convicted or suspected of terrorist offences could be stripped of their citizenship under the proposed crackdown on dual nationals who engage in or support terrorism. This includes 11 dual Australian nationals jailed in the past decade for major terror plots, including planning to bomb the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights and the MCG on grand final day. The bill would also cover almost half of the estimated 110 Australians currently fighting for Islamic State and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. It would similarly jeopardise the citizenship of a large proportion of approximately 160 Australians whom ASIO suspects are actively supporting Islamic State in Australia.
The figures, obtained by The Weekend Australian, bolster the government’s claim that the controversial measure could materially help reduce the terror threat to Australia. However, the number of those who are actually stripped of citizenship within Australia under the proposed change is likely to be modest, in line with the experience in Britain, which has similar laws. Even so, the surprisingly large number of dual Australian national extremists, both at home and overseas, would give the government broader scope to act against those it considered to pose the greatest risk.
Labor has given in-principle support for the proposed changes but wants to see the detail of the legislation, which would effectively hand judicial-style power to the Immigration Minister. The government has sought to wedge Labor on the issue, accusing it of being weak on national security for not embracing the measure immediately.
Under the proposal, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton would have the power to strip Australian citizenship from dual nationals on advice from security agencies that they were involved in serious terror-related activities. This would include those both at home and overseas who have not yet been brought before the courts.
It is understood that the laws could potentially be applied to the 11 dual nationals out of the 23 Australians who have been jailed for terrorism offences since 2000. These include the country’s worst terrorist, Abdul Nacer Benbrika, a dual Australian-Algerian citizen who in 2005 led terror cells in Melbourne and Sydney plotting a major attack on Australian soil, including a mooted strike on the MCG on grand final day.
Other dual nationals involved in that plot include Australian-Lebanese citizens Khaled Cheikho and Mohamad Ali Elomar, whose nephew Mohamed Elomar is currently fighting with Islamic State in Syria. Others liable for loss of citizenship include Faheem Lodhi, a dual Australian-Pakistani citizen convicted over a 2003 plot to attack Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, and former Qantas baggage handler Belal Khazaal, jailed in 2009 for producing a do-it-yourself terror manual.
However, any move to deport these convicted terrorists after they have served their sentence could only succeed if their second country agreed to accept them.
The proposed citizenship changes could be used to prevent the return of up to half of the 110 Australians currently believed to be fighting with Islamic State or other groups in Syria and Iraq. ASIO estimated that between 40 and 50 per cent of those fighting in those countries were dual Australian nationals.
Opponents of the dual citizenship changes say the law would give too much power to one minister and that it would sideline the courts. Tony Abbott was rolled in cabinet after pushing for even tougher measures to strip citizenship from sole Australian nationals, provided they were eligible to obtain it from another country. This more controversial proposal has since been relegated to a discussion paper, although there remains strong support for it among the Coalition backbench.
Mr Dutton said yesterday the new laws allowing the stripping of Australian citizenship for dual Australian nationals would come with a judicial review. But this review would only ensure the minister followed the correct process and would not examine the substance of the case.
Critics, including Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs, say this is not good enough. “The most worrying aspect of the proposal is that it is to be at the discretion of the minister and is not subject to judicial supervision,” Professor Triggs told The Australian this week.
Mr Dutton said the proposed changes represented a “measured” response to the terrorist threat, the gravity of which was not fully appreciated. “If we can strip citizenship from these people before they would do harm to Australian citizens I think that is a very good outcome for our country,” he said. He said the new laws would not render anyone stateless, an act that would contravene Australia’s legal obligations.
Britain has had similar powers to revoke citizenship of dual nationals since 2006, but has used them only 27 times. Last year David Cameron’s government also embraced the more extreme measures rejected by cabinet last week of potentially stripping sole nationals of their citizenship so long as they were eligible to obtain it elsewhere.
Such measures risk that a person would be rendered stateless if that other country refused to grant citizenship. The Abbott government is expected within weeks to release its new legislation, which will update the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 .
GRAPHIC: The call to Jihad = a listing of all the guys and gals deemed jihadist
Example = Adam Dahman (Abu Bakr), 18
Country of birth: Australia
School: Northcote High
Description: Described as a class clown at his Melbourne school, the teenage brother-in-law of Mounir and Ezzit Raad detonated a suicide bomb in Baghdad in July 2014.
Abdul Nacer Benbrika — www.news.com.au