Australia

Australia: The Australian Government has stripped Neil Prakash of his citizenship for his affiliation with the Islamic State (IS) group, it was reported on Friday.

Prakash is currently in jail in Turkey, where he faces multiple charges related to being a member of IS.

The 27-year-old becomes the 12th dual citizen from Australia to have their citizenship ceased for actions contrary to their allegiance to Australia.

Prakash — who was born in Melbourne — had his Australian passport revoked and the Government has previously attempted to extradite him to Australia from Turkey.

Deputy Leader of the House Darren Chester said the Coalition made no apologies “for being tough on terrorists”.

“I think the Australian public would expect the Government to revoke Australian citizenship rights of people who act contrary to that,” Mr Chester said.

“Australian citizenship gives you rights but responsibilities. Responsibilities around allegiance to Australia and not consorting with terrorists organisations.”

Victorian Police minister Lisa Neville welcomed the move by the Federal Government: “This is an individual that Victoria Police have been very, very keen to see extradited back to Australia to face the charges, and to face the community of Victoria.

“We’re hoping that, in the cancellation of citizenship, that the Federal Government can continue to pursue strongly his extradition.

“That’s ultimately what we want to see, because we want him to face the court of law.”

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has suggested he would rather see Neil Prakash, Australia’s most infamous Islamic State recruit, serve a lengthy jail term in Turkey than have him return to Australian soil under an extradition request.

Mr Dutton stated the preference — which suggests the government’s extradition request is now being treated as a fallback option — after Prakash was stripped of his Australian citizenship over his association with the terrorist group.

The Turkish Government has said Prakash must stand trial and serve any jail time he is sentenced to before being extradited.

Prakash has been held in a maximum-security jail in Gaziantep, in southern Turkey, since he was captured in October 2016 trying to sneak across the border from Syria using fake identity papers.

The self-confessed IS member, also known by the alias Abu Khaled al-Cambodi, was described by former attorney-general George Brandis as “the principal Australian reaching back from the Middle East into Australia”.

According to senior counter-terrorism officials, Prakash was a pivotal figure inspiring and encouraging terrorist plots in Australia. He is believed to have been involved in influencing the alleged Mother’s Day pipe bomb plot, the Anzac Day plot in Melbourne, and an alleged Anzac Day plot in Sydney. He also helped radicalise Numan Haider, who launched a stabbing attack on police in Melbourne in 2014 before being shot dead.

The Melbourne-born man has featured prominently in Islamic State propaganda videos and has been linked to terrorism plots and recruitment activities in the Western world, including Australia.

Following a tip-off from Australian authorities, Turkish law enforcement arrested Prakash in October 2016 trying to cross the border from Syria. He is the subject of an Australian government extradition request for his service with the terror group.

Under laws introduced in 2015, the Australian government can strip dual nationals of their Australian citizenship for involvement in terrorism. Prakash is understood to have Fijian citizenship through his father.

“Mr Prakash faces what I hope will be a long jail term in Turkey,” Mr Dutton said on Saturday when asked if the government was still pursuing extradition.

He said the government would wait to see what happened in the Turkish proceedings and consider other nations’ interests in Mr Prakash for his alleged offences before taking any further action.

“The priority for us is to make sure that people like Neil Prakash don’t come back to Australia. We don’t want them here. These are people that would kill Australians.”

It is understood the government is treating the extradition request as a backup option pending the outcome of the Turkish process, which could see Mr Prakash imprisoned for up to 25 years.

Radicalised in Melbourne, Prakash became a foreign fighter for Islamic State in Syria in 2013, adopting the nom de guerre Abu Khaled al-Cambodi.

On Saturday, Mr Dutton said: “Let’s wait and see what the future holds for him but hopefully he won’t see the light of day for a long period of time to come.”

He said the government was currently considering actions against other dual nationals alleged to be involved terrorism overseas.

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