Australian Islamic State member Neil Prakash has been denied extradition from Turkey where he has been held in a maximum-security jail since October 2016. A Melbourne-born-turned-jihadi who left Australia in 2013 to join ISIS in Syria, Prakash was finally caught and taken into custody while trying to cross the Turkey-Syrian border using forged identity documents.
Prakash states that he fled Australia to join the Islamic State “because I saw the Syrian people were in trouble, people were being bombed,” but now claims that his appearance in numerous Islamic State videos was coerced. Calling himself a “new Muslim,” he has asserted that he appeared in ISIS recruitment videos and photographs under duress, and that his life was at risk unless he complied.
But government officials claim that Prakash was not simply a naïve IS recruit but was an active and influential component of domestic terrorism. Prakash has been implicated in the radicalization of Australian teens intending on committing acts of terror in Melbourne and Sydney and was involved in a plot to behead federal police during a 2015 ANZAC Day commemoration. He has also been linked by the FBI to a failed attack on the Statue of Liberty.
The Australian Federal Police issued an arrest warrant for Prakash, 27, for “advocating terrorism,” “providing support to a terrorist organization,” and “providing support to a terrorist organization” — and former attorney-general George Brandis named Prakash the “principal Australian reaching back from the Middle East into Australia.” But it could be several years until Prakash faces these charges in Australia.
In July the Turkish courts rejected the Australian government’s requests to extradite the domestic terrorist, which raised concerns that he could be released if the Turkish government failed to prosecute him. Now officially denied bail and release by a Turkish judge, Prakash faces up to 25 years in Turkish jails, meaning that it may be several years until he can stand trial in Australia.
The ABC reported that Prakash launched into a tirade when the judge presiding over the extradition trial asked the defendant for a statement. “Allah is the legislator, not him,” Prakash is reported to have stated in a mixture of English, Turkish, and Arabic. “He is not a judge; he is the enemy of Allah.” He added, “Democracy is not legitimate. Islam is justice.” Foreign Minster Julie Bishop expressed disappointment that the requests had been rejected, but Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton stated, “I’m happy to see him rot in jail in Turkey.”
Jacinta West is Australia correspondent for DANGEROUS.
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