Aussie laws to punish dual-national terrorists

Canberra will revoke citizenship, but won't invest power in single minister

SYDNEY - Australia will introduce new laws this week to strip dual nationals linked to terrorism of their citizenship, but has backed away from putting the power in the hands of a single minister.

The legislation will see the Citizenship Act - which currently stipulates that a person ceases to be a national if he serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia - expanded to include people who "fight against us in a terrorist group".

There are now 20 such groups on Canberra's list of terrorist organisations.

"If people have become terrorists, our intention as far as we humanly can is to stop them from coming back," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday. "If, however, the person so affected believes that there is some problem, this matter will be legally reviewable."

The legislation, when tabled in Parliament today, will specify what conduct is covered, but Mr Abbott said it broadly meant "serious involvement with a terrorist group".

The Labor opposition is generally supportive of the changes.

The government has been increasingly worried about foreign fighters returning home, with Parliament passing a slew of national security laws since Canberra raised the national threat alert to high last September. About half of the 120 Australians who the government believes are fighting with militants in the Middle East are dual nationals, Mr Abbott said.

The announcement came as Canberra sought to confirm reports that two high-profile Australians fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar, were killed in the Iraqi city of Mosul in the past week. Canberra has not said if they are dual nationals.

Sharrouf gained global infamy last year when he posted pictures on Twitter showing himself and his seven-year-old son holding the severed heads of slain Syrian soldiers. One picture was captioned "That's my boy", prompting United States Secretary of State John Kerry to call it "stomach-churning".

Sharrouf, who served almost four years in prison after pleading guilty over a 2005 conspiracy to attack Sydney, fled the country in 2013 along with Elomar.

Elomar, who reacted to the photograph of the boy with a tweet to "keep them heads rolling", has also been pictured holding the heads of pro-Syrian fighters.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed that there had been recent drone strikes in the Mosul area but said she was still awaiting "absolute verification" that the duo were dead.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Aussie laws to punish dual-national terrorists'. Print Edition | Subscribe