Australia to introduce new counter-terrorism laws, may strip terror suspects of citizenship

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday, May 24, 2015, that the country is set to introduce new counter-terrorism laws, which includes stripping dual nationals who are linked to terrorism of their citizenship. -- PHOTO: AFP
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday, May 24, 2015, that the country is set to introduce new counter-terrorism laws, which includes stripping dual nationals who are linked to terrorism of their citizenship. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia is set to introduce new counter-terrorism laws, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sunday, with the package expected to include stripping dual nationals who are linked to terrorism of their citizenship.

There has also been speculation that the plan to amend citizenship laws, which was disclosed in February, could also affect second-generation Australians who carry only one passport.

"It's long been the case that if you have served with the armed forces of a country at war with Australia, you automatically lose your citizenship," Mr Abbott told reporters. "People who are fighting with terrorist groups overseas or who are engaged in terrorist activities here in Australia are effectively taking up arms against us. And it's very hard to imagine that we should allow to remain in the bosom of our country people who are trying to destroy us."

Australia raised its threat level to high last September and has since carried out a series of counter-terrorism raids, with several alleged plots foiled this year.

Canberra has also taken a tough stance against radicalised citizens amid alarm at the departure of more than 100 of its nationals to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside jihadists including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Mr Abbott on Tuesday ruled out any leniency for returning militants following reports three citizens suspected of fighting with ISIS were negotiating with the government to come home.

On Monday an inquest resumes into a Sydney cafe siege in December in which two hostages and the gunman, Iranian-born self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis, died.

The first two weeks of the inquest will explore Monis' background.

The Prime Minister would not comment on a report on Thursday that his government was also exploring the possibility of stripping second-generation Australians of their citizenships if they are linked to terrorist activity, saying further details of the legislative changes would be released in a few days.

The possible measures, which were raised in The Australian newspaper, would force such nationals to take on citizenship of their parents' birth countries.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told the newspaper other citizenship rights, such as voting, welfare and other government benefits, could also be lost.

Australia has already introduced a series of national security measures over the past few months. They include criminalising travel to terror hotspots and requiring telecommunications firms to retain customers' digital data for two years.

Mr Abbott said in a video message earlier Sunday that "at least 250 Australians, some very young, have become ensnared in the evil ideology of the Daesh (ISIS) death cult", but did not elaborate on the nature of their alleged involvement.

He added that domestic spy agency ASIO had "over 400 priority counter-terrorism investigations".