Australia says it has right to strip ISIS recruiter's citizenship

SYDNEY • Australia's government is confident it has grounds to strip an alleged ISIS recruiter of citizenship, a minister said yesterday, as questions arose over whether doing so could be illegal and leave the man stateless.

The case highlights the problems many governments face as they consider what action to take against people who have travelled abroad, often to the Middle East, to join militant groups.

Under Australian law, a person can only be stripped of his citizenship if he is a dual citizen, thereby preventing people from being made stateless.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Melbourne-born Neil Prakash, who is imprisoned in Turkey, was a dual citizen as he also has Fijian citizenship.

Prakash ceased to be an Australian "by virtue of his actions in fighting for Islamic State from May 2016", and he had been notified of the decision in December, Mr Dutton said.

"The advice to the government based on all the intricate detail and fact of this particular matter is that Mr Prakash is, by operation of law, a citizen of Fiji," he told reporters in Brisbane.

The case highlights the problems many governments face as they consider what action to take against people who have travelled abroad, often to the Middle East, to join militant groups.

Prakash has been in Turkey on trial for charges relating to being a member of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group since being caught there in October 2016.

Australia believes Prakash is a dual national because his father is Fijian. But Fiji's director of immigration, Mr Nemani Vuniwaqa, told Reuters that Prakash is not Fijian.

 
 

Prakash can challenge the Australian government's decision, Mr Dutton said, and he could be entitled to retain his citizenship if he does not hold dual-citizenship status.

The government has said Prakash had appeared in ISIS videos and magazines and had actively recruited Australian men, women and children, and encouraged acts of terrorism. Prakash is also wanted in Australia over terrorism-related activities, including a suspected plot to behead a police officer, though an Australian push for his extradition was rejected by Turkey in July.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline 'Australia says it has right to strip ISIS recruiter's citizenship'. Print Edition | Subscribe