Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Australia: PM Proposes New Laws to Deal with Radicalized Aussies at Home

According to AFP, Australia is poised to toughen-up statutes to target home-grown terrorists and those who fight overseas over fears that violent jihadist citizens in Syria and Iraq will return home, officials said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the terror threat to Australia had not subsided since the September 11, 2001 attacks and remained at the highest level ever.

Officials have said up to 150 Australians are fighting alongside militants overseas, with warrants issued last week for two Sydney men suspected of fighting in Iraq, including one who posed for photos with severed heads. 

"We've all seen the truly shocking images of Australians born and bred doing absolutely horrific things to surrendering Iraqi police and military personnel," the PM told reporters in Canberra.

"What we are now acutely conscious of is the danger posed back here in Australia by people returning to this country who have been radicalized and militarized by the experience of working with terrorist organisations overseas."

COMMENT: Counter-terror legislation under preparation would make it easier to identify, charge and prosecute people who have been engaged in terrorist activities overseas, and prevent extremists departing, Abbott said.

It will also make it an offense to travel without a valid reason to a so-called designated area, as articulated by intelligence agencies.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said governments around the world were increasingly concerned about how to grapple with the risk to domestic security posed by citizens who have fought in foreign conflicts.

She said mercenaries and foreign fighters were in Ukraine while Syria and Iraq were "becoming a breeding ground for extremism."

Bishop said prior to the NATO-led intervention in Afghanistan, Australian intelligence had suggested there were 30 people of interest fighting in that country and becoming extremists."Twenty-five of them came back to Australia. Two thirds of those were thereafter involved in terrorist activities," she said.

The government had planned to repeal a section of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it illegal to "offend, insult or humiliate another" because of their race, saying it should not be used to stifle free speech.

The PM said A$630 million (US$588 million) would be spent over four years to boost counter-terrorism via security and intelligence agencies.

The government also plans legislation to improve the collection and admissibility of evidence abroad and update Australia's telecommunications interception law, which predates the Internet.