Australia has cancelled the citizenship of an Algerian-born Muslim scholar who was convicted of leading a “terrorist” cell that planned to bomb a football match in Melbourne in 2005, according to Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.
Abdul Nacer Benbrika is the first person to be stripped of his citizenship while still in Australia.
“If it’s a person who’s posing a significant terrorist threat to our country, then we’ll do whatever is possible within Australian law to protect Australians,” Dutton told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.
Benbrika was convicted on three “terrorism” charges. He was jailed for 15 years for directing a “terrorist” group, being a member of a “terrorist” group and possessing material associated with the planning of a “terrorist” act.
Benbrika remains in an Australian prison despite having finished his sentence.
Under Australian law, Canberra is permitted to detain anyone convicted of “terror” offences for up to three years after their sentence finishes.
Lawyers for Benbrika have appealed against his ongoing detention. He has 90 days to appeal the cancellation of his citizenship and return to Algeria.
Under Australian law, a person can only be stripped of their citizenship if they are dual citizens, thereby preventing people from being made stateless.
Australia used the powers in 2019 to strip the citizenship of Neil Prakash, an alleged ISIL (ISIS) recruiter who is imprisoned in Turkey.
Australia argued he was a dual citizen as he also has Fijian citizenship, though Fiji denied the claim, souring the bilateral relationship.