Australia plans tougher youth terror laws

Riot police stand guard as anti-Muslim protesters hold a demonstration outside the Parramatta Mosque in Sydney on Oct 9, 2015.
Riot police stand guard as anti-Muslim protesters hold a demonstration outside the Parramatta Mosque in Sydney on Oct 9, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

New measures to include restricting the movements of suspects as young as 14

SYDNEY • Australia has outlined plans to tighten counter-terrorism laws further, including restricting the movements of suspects as young as 14 in the wake of a deadly attack by a teenager this month.

Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday said a fifth instalment of the legislation had been drawn up and would be introduced to Parliament in coming weeks.

It follows Farhad Jabar, a 15-year-old, shooting police employee Curtis Cheng in the back of the head in Sydney while reportedly shouting religious slogans before being gunned down by police.

"The new laws will, among other things, lower the age at which a control order can be applied from 16 to 14 years of age," Mr Brandis said in a statement.

A control order allows the movements and activities of a suspect to be restricted, with terror groups targeting ever-younger individuals.

"Fourteen is not too young an age for an order of this kind to be made," Mr Brandis added, speaking on national radio.

"Unfortunately, the reach of ISIL and ISIL surrogates and agents in Australia is extending to younger and younger people."

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is another name for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Mr Brandis said that under the new legislation, there would be protection and safeguards for minors in the 14 to 17 age category.

"There will be various measures that will limit the capacity of police to question or deal with minors in a way which is regarded, given the age of the person, to be unreasonable."

Canberra is concerned about the prospect of lone-wolf attacks by individuals inspired by groups such as ISIS.

It has already cracked down on Australians attempting to travel to conflict zones, including Syria and Iraq.

Authorities lifted Australia's terror threat alert to high a year ago, introduced new national security laws and have since conducted several counter-terrorism raids.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament yesterday that 24 people had been charged with terrorism-related offences since then.

"We are constantly monitoring the threat.

"We are working closely with states and territories, and ensuring that our laws give our security services the powers that they need to deal with the challenge," he said.

New South Wales state Premier Mike Baird, who urged a tightening of the laws after the Cheng killing, also wants to extend the length of time that terrorism suspects can be kept in custody for questioning.

Currently, they can be held for four hours before a court application must be made to extend the period to eight days.

Mr Baird wants this changed to an initial four days, extendable to 28 days.

The government is yet to agree on the proposal and Mr Turnbull was to meet counter-terrorism agencies tomorrow to fine-tune strategies to deal with extremism and radicalisation.

Meanwhile, a New Zealand man living in Melbourne was tried in an Australian court yesterday and could spend up to three decades behind bars after he was found guilty of trying to travel to the Middle East to fight in the Syrian conflict.

Experts believe Amin Mohamed, 25, is the first person in Australia to be found guilty of attempting to fight in Syria on foreign incursions offences.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ADEQUATE POWERS

We are constantly monitoring the threat. We are working closely with states and territories, and ensuring that our laws give our security services the powers that they need to deal with the challenge.

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AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Australia plans tougher youth terror laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe