An Australian nurse who says he was forced by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group to work as a medic in Syria is returning to Sydney voluntarily with a police escort, Australian police have said.
Adam Brookman, 39, who will return to Australia on Friday, could become the first person to be charged under tough new laws which make it a crime to even set foot in the ISIL stronghold of al-Raqqa province in Syria without good reason.
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Brookman is voluntarily returning to Australia with a police escort on a flight from Turkey where he had surrendered to authorities, the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.
“His travel back to Australia has been negotiated between the individual, the AFP, Victoria Police, other Commonwealth Government agencies and international partners,” the AFP said.
“At this stage, the individual has not been charged… The individual is subject to ongoing investigation.
“The public can rest assured that any Australian who is identified as a threat to security will be investigated by the relevant agencies.”
It is not clear whether Brookman was still in Syria on December 4, 2014, when Australia made being in al-Raqqa a crime punishable by 10 years in prison.
If charged, the onus would be on Brookman to prove he had a legitimate reason to be in the region.
“If there is evidence an Australian has committed a criminal offence under Australia law while involved in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, they will be charged and put before the courts,” the AFP said.
In an interview with Australia’s Fairfax Media in May, Brookman said he first travelled to Syria to perform humanitarian work, but had been forced to join ISIL when he was injured in an air strike and treated at a hospital controlled by the armed group, north of Aleppo.
Brookman said he had been hiding in Turkey after fleeing from Syria last December.
“I don’t agree with what they do at all,” he told Fairfax.
“I don’t agree with their kidnapping, with their dealings with other Muslim groups, and especially after they started executing journalists and other innocent civilians.”
“I never went there to fight, I went there as a nurse. I support the struggle of the Syrian people.”