Arrests highlight threats to Australia’s national security

3 December 2013

The Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, said this morning’s arrest of two men in Sydney is a reminder of the risks to Australia’s national security from individuals who support or engage in foreign conflicts.

“The threat posed by Australian travellers to Syria and other conflict zones is significant and will likely have long-term implications for our security,” said Senator Brandis.

“I am concerned about the radicalisation of Australians as a result of the Syrian conflict, particularly those who return to Australia with the capabilities acquired through fighting or training with extremist groups.”

“In addition, Australians travelling to Syria to engage in, or support terrorist activities are not only committing criminal offences, but may face personal risks such as being kidnapped, seriously injured or killed.”

Two Sydney men are expected to be charged with foreign incursion-related offences as part of a Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) investigation carried out by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and NSW Police Force.

The Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 makes it an offence to travel to a foreign state – or assist someone to travel – with the intention to engage in hostile activity, or to train or be trained regarding hostile activities.

It will be alleged that a 39-year-old man was actively involved in recruiting people to travel to Syria and engage in hostile activities, while a 23-year-old man was preparing to travel to Syria to fight.

The 39-year-old will be charged with seven offences contrary to paragraph 7 (1) (e) of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978. The 23-year-old man will be charged with four offences contrary to paragraph 7 (1) (a) of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978. These offences carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends Australians do not travel to Syria or border regions in neighbouring countries as the situation is extremely dangerous and the government’s ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited.