What does jihadist Neil Prakash, now jailed in Turkey, alleged drug mule Cassandra Sainsbury, jailed in Colombia and ex-Waverley college schoolboy, John Zakhariev jailed in Bulgaria have in common?
What, for that matter did executed drug dealers Chan and Sukumaran, Schapelle Corby, about to be released from some 12 years of imprisonment in Bali and deported back to Australia, and Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks have in common?
They are/were all Australian passport holders and after arrest in a foreign country on serious charges appealed to the Australian government for assistance, which under the reassuring phrase ‘consular assistance’ was, in most cases forthcoming.
Malcolm Turnbull has stated that Prakash should never be released from an Australian jail.
What was Malcolm Turnbull thinking?
Why bring back a jihadist like Neil Prakash and allow him the comforts of Australian prison life – halal food, prayer mats and freedom to proselytise others in detention and the –admittedly unlikely not altogether impossible- chance of being released at some future date? Holding Prakash in a Turkish prison – Turkish prisons are not as comfortable as they are here- makes Australia safer. If western intelligence agents need to question Prakash – well, Ankara is nice this time of year. And, because you never know, despite the PM’s staunch reassurances, if Prakash were ever to be released – as David Hicks was, well, there would probably be a television producer or publisher eager to sign him up.
Schapelle Corby (“I’m terrified to come home’ ran the headline in one popular magazine) will, most likely, as David Hicks did, receive a fat wad of cash for her ‘story’.
Australia lags way behind many countries in the way we deal with criminality within or without our borders. Lindt café siege killer Man Monis should have been repatriated to Teheran for questioning when the Iranians requested it. Australia refused: we have no extradition treaty with Iran. Pity. It would have saved two lives.
In the cases of Sukumaran and Chan, taxpayers covered the considerable costs of having family members visit the men in prison. Australian consular officers were on hand to ‘provide assistance’ and large chunks of Ministerial time was consumed in making ‘representation’ to the Indonesian government and talking to the media about the case.
As in the Sainsbury case in Colombia, Australia has no extradition treaty with Indonesia and, as Nicole Young, criminal lawyer and former head of the federal government’s International Transfer of Prisoners Unit wrote in a recent article, to free Hicks, ‘there was needed a special amendment to legislation in order to allow it to occur from Guantanamo Bay, which is not considered part of the US, nor a nation in its own right.’
Australia does have prisoner exchange arrangements with Turkey, which makes it probable that Prakash will, as the Prime Minister says, see him extradited here. It is unfortunate that Prakash is not a dual national; stripping him of Australian citizenship and leaving him in Turkey might be one jihadist less in Australia. The only possible option might be to leave him in Turkey for as long as possible, (‘Hasten slowly’) and hope Turkish prison discipline wears him down in ways in probably illegal in Australia.
The case of 21-year-old John Zakhariev now banged up in Bulgaria deserves special mention.
“I would ask our Government to possibly do something to aid me, perhaps once I’m sentenced, to send me back to Australia, because even if I’m in prison there I can actually do things to pass the time. So I will make this appeal to the Australian authorities to actually do something to aid me,” he said. John is reported to be the son of a UN official; he converted to Islam, then back to Christianity. Does he really have the right to expect taxpayers to ‘assist’?
Australian taxpayers fork out, every time, for such ‘consular assistance’ although the guidelines have been that diplomatic intervention only comes into play if a long sentence or the death penalty is involved.
Maybe we should re-visit the example of Singapore’s political founder Lee Kuan Yew, who faced with Communist Nanyang University students had them herded onto a ship bound for China. “They want to be Communists, they should go there,” Lee reportedly said at the time. The students, none of whom spoke Mandarin, or any Chinese dialect, eventually returned to their families; Nanyang campus activity returned to normal.
One resulting policy was that Singapore does not allow dual nationality passport-holders. You’re Singaporean or not. Perhaps this is something that should be considered in future.
Should we, at a time when ordinary, law-abiding Australians are struggling to keep afloat financially, continue to fund and repatriate Australians who commit criminal acts in foreign jurisdictions?
Isn’t it the responsibility of families to ensure their offspring obey Australian laws and, if they do, as ISIS wife Tara Nettleton, dead from appendicitis far from home and medical aid in Syria did, take their children into dangerous bad lands, should taxpayers foot the bills for their safe return? We may not be able to afford to do so too much longer.
Prime Minister, it’s really much cheaper to have Prakash stay in Turkey. Safer too.
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