ABC's AM program looks at the reaction from the Muslim community to the latest terrorist arrest.
TONY EASTLEY: Members of Sydney's Muslim community have questioned the
timing of the arrest of a local activist, suggesting it was politically
years of allegations that he was al-Qaeda's man in Australia, and that
he was sending young men overseas for terrorist training, Bilal Khazal
has now been charged with "making documents likely to facilitate
terrorism". It's a charge the 34-year-old former Qantas baggage handler
Police told the court a book produced by Khazal detailed
among other things, reasons and methods of assassination, including car
bombs and shooting down planes.
As Michael Vincent reports this is the first time Mr Khazal has been charged despite being known to ASIO for 10 years.
MICHAEL VINCENT: Members of Sydney's Muslim community have a strong opinion on the timing of Mr Khazal's arrest.
Waleed Kadous is the spokesman for the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network.
KADOUS: I find it quite curious, the timing, that it's happened just as
this other business with the Abu Ghraib prison has just been finishing.
It's just a particularly odd time to arrest him, given that ASIO have
been following this particular person for ten years.
VINCENT: A Sydney court has heard, Bilal Khazal made admissions to
police that he wrote a book espousing extremist militant theologies.
The magistrate said "at first blush" it appeared to be a strong prosecution case and yet he granted Mr Khazal bail.
Trad, who has known Mr Khazal since the late 1980s, but doesn't
consider him a friend, has also questioned why he was arrested
KEYSAR TRAD: According to the charge sheets, this
material has been on the internet for a long time and they were only
removed early in May. Now the charges being brought now is possibly the
clearest indication or the strongest hint that an election is likely to
be called very, very soon.
MICHAEL VINCENT: What do you mean by that?
TRAD: Well, let's just leave it at that. I think it's pretty obvious
that we are in an election year and giving something to the voting
population to think about and talk about is, seems to be the tradition
in election years.
MICHAEL VINCENT: Bilal Khazal has been
writing fundamentalist Muslim literature on the internet for at least
half a dozen years. ASIO's been questioning him over different matters
The AM program has seen intelligence
documents which reveal that on February 13, 1997 Mr Khazal published an
article online saying the Koran supports Muslims who use explosives to
kill themselves and others. Six days later ASIO visited him and
questioned him about this article.
AM understands the article was later withdrawn from a local website.
Muslims like Waleed Kadous say they don't agree with Mr Khazal's work, but agree with his right to express it.
KADOUS: While I vehemently express with Mr Khazal's views and the views
that he holds are not those of the mainstream Muslim community, at the
end of the day he's been arrested for writing a very general text and
the last time I checked, even if someone held extreme views, we still
respect their freedom of speech. This is the equivalent of arresting
someone like Pauline Hanson for having unusual views.
VINCENT: There are alleged references throughout this text to war and
the enemy, and the allegation that the book promotes the futherance of
his theological beliefs through violent acts against persons and
countries, including Australia. Australia is considered the enemy.
Doesn't that disturb you?
WALEED KADOUS: Yes, it does disturb
me, but I still don't think that that, I mean I don't think you can be
arrested simply for thinking or expressing a point of view.
TONY EASTLEY: Waleed Kadous, spokesman for the Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network, ending Michael Vincent's report.
Reporter: Michael Vincent
AM - ABC, Thursday, 3 June , 2004 08:12:00