Australia strips citizenship of alleged ISIL recruiter

Home ministry says ISIL member Neil Prakash has acted 'inconsistently' with his allegiance to Australia.

    A former rapper, Neil Prakash held both Australian and Fijian citizenship [Site Intelligence/YouTube]
    A former rapper, Neil Prakash held both Australian and Fijian citizenship [Site Intelligence/YouTube]

    The Australian government has stripped the citizenship of a man it believes is a top recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group.

    Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said on Saturday that Melbourne-born Neil Prakash was "a very dangerous individual", who had acted "inconsistently" with his allegiance to Australia.

    "If given the opportunity, Mr Prakash would harm or kill Australians and our country is a safer place for him having lost his Australian citizenship," Dutton said in a televised news conference.

    Prakash, who Dutton said had been central to ISIL's efforts in the Middle East, has been held in Turkey where he is charged with terrorism-related activities since being caught there in October 2016.

    The 27-year-old is wanted in Australia over an alleged plot to behead a police officer. 

    Prakash, whose mother was Cambodian and father a Fijian, held both Australian and Fijian citizenship through his father.

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    Under Australia's citizenship laws, a dual national can lose his Australian citizenship if he acts contrary to his allegiance to the country by choosing to be involved in "terrorism".

    ISIL, also known as ISIS, was declared a "terrorist organisation" in May 2016 for this purpose, the Home Affairs Office said in a statement, and Prakash is the 12th person to be stripped of citizenship so far.

    'Real threat'

    Dutton said the law prevents the government from rendering somebody stateless so they must have Australian citizenship and citizenship of another country.

    A former rapper, Prakash has previously admitted being a member of ISIL but said he had nothing to do with the group in Australia.

    Dutton said Australia's internal spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), had thwarted 14 attempted attacks, including a plan to smuggle explosives onto an A380 flight to the Middle East.

    "The threat is very real," he said. "The priority for us is to make sure that people like Neil Prakash don't come back to Australia. We don't want them here."

    He has been linked to several Australia-based attack plans and has appeared in ISIL videos and magazines. Australia says he actively recruited Australian men, women and children and encouraged violence.

    Prakash has been notified of the decision by letter and Fiji's government has also been notified, a source close to the Australian government told Reuters news agency.

    Australia has been pressing Turkey to extradite Prakash since he was first detained, but the request was rejected in July.

    It will remain in place until the conclusion of his case and any custodial sentence, The Australian newspaper reported.

    Canberra cancelled Prakash's passport in 2014 and announced financial sanctions in 2015, which cover anyone giving him financial assistance, with a punishment of up to 10 years in jail.

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    SOURCE: News agencies