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Home World News Washington Post World News Australian charged with traveling to IS territory on bail

Australian charged with traveling to IS territory on bail

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SYDNEY — An Australian woman accused of voluntarily entering a part of Syria controlled by the Islamic State group was released on bail Friday amid debate over the risk to the community.

Mariam Raad, 31, is one of many Australians whose husbands were killed or imprisoned after joining Islamic State. Australia repatriated four such women and 13 children from a Syrian refugee camp in October.

Raad lived in the town of Young, New South Wales, and was first arrested on Thursday. Federal and state police executed warrants at her home and a relative’s home in Sydney.

Raad was charged with entering or residing in a part of Syria under terrorist control, in violation of federal law. If found guilty, she faces up to 10 years in prison.

Her bail conditions include a requirement to surrender her passport and a ban on her contacting anyone in prison or anyone associated with a terrorist group. She is also forbidden to acquire a weapon.

Her lawyer, Moustafa Khier of Birchgrove Legal, told the Guardian newspaper that the court had heard of the “wealth of evidence” that Raad had worked hard to reintegrate herself and her family.

“Mariam has always said she would follow all government orders,” Moustafa Khier told The Guardian, adding that law enforcement agencies had categorized her as low risk when deciding whether to repatriate her.

Federal treasurer Jim Chalmers said the returned women posed no threat to the community, but authorities would continue to monitor them.

“There is clearly a process we have to go through now,” Chalmers told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

But Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said a problem once confined to parts of Sydney has spread across Australia.

“We don’t know where these people have been resettled. We don’t know which communities have been endangered. We don’t know where they go and where,” Ley said.

And David Elliott, the state’s former police minister, said he had received “completely opposite” advice on Council than the government, with authorities telling him she posed a threat to security.

“When Anthony became Albanian prime minister, somehow magically these ISIS brides no longer posed a security threat,” said Elliott.

Prosecutors allege that Raad traveled to Syria in early 2014 to join her husband, Muhammad Zahab, who left Australia a year earlier to join Islamic State to fight. Prosecutors say Raad knew about her husband’s activities and voluntarily traveled to the conflict zone.

Zahab, a former maths teacher in Sydney, rose through the ranks of the terror group and is believed to have been killed in Syria in 2018.

Until October, Raad lived in the Al Roj camp in northern Syria, which has been under Kurdish control since the defeat of Islamic State.

The investigation into Raad began while she was in Syria and continued after she returned.

The federal police commander, charged with monitoring terror risks, said the joint counter-terrorism team will continue to investigate Australians returning from conflict zones.

“Individuals will be brought to court when evidence supports allegations that returned individuals have committed crimes in conflict zones,” said Sandra Booth, the acting assistant commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.

Council must appear in court on March 15.



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