Ruddock doubts terror cell claims Print E-mail
Sunday, 25 September 2005


Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says claims that up to 800 Muslim extremists are based in Australia are speculative.


The Australian newspaper today quoted security sources as saying that spy agency ASIO estimated between 700 and 800 Muslim extremists living in Australia could be motivated to carry out an attack.

A year ago, the nation's security agencies said they were closely monitoring the activities of 70 to 80 Australians known to have trained with terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


But in the wake of the London bombings, ASIO has identified up to 800 people deemed a potential security risk, the newspaper said.


ASIO chief Paul O'Sullivan yesterday briefed the Council of Australian Governments on the latest security situation.

But Mr Ruddock said today there was no suggestion in the briefing of such numbers.


"Those figures are speculative - they bear no relationship to any of the briefings that were given yesterday by the director-general of ASIO," Mr Ruddock told the Nine Network.

Mr Ruddock said agencies had identified people who had trained with terrorist organisations.


"Yes, there are people of concern who may be motivated to carry out acts of terrorism but the fact is the numbers change," he said.


The summit with the premiers yesterday approved the use of house arrest or electronic shackling for up to 12 months for terror suspects and preventative detention of up to 14 days, both of which could be used on people as young as 16.


Mr Ruddock said the terror powers were a reasonable response to threats to national security.


"These measures are intended to deal with people who pose a risk to the safety and security of the Australian community where there may not be specific evidence to charge them with a terrorist offence," Mr Ruddock said.


"It's where we are concerned that a person may be involved in planning for a terrorist act, where we believe there are substantial reasons for putting some restrictions on on their movement."


Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network convenor Waleed Kadous said the new counter-terrorism laws would have a specific impact on Muslims.


"The laws are not aimed at the Muslim community - they have an impact on all Australians,'' Mr Kadous told ABC radio today.

"But in their application they will have a specific impact on the Muslim community.


"For example, it is far more likely that police will search someone based on them having middle eastern appearance, whether or not their belief that that person may be doing something wrong is justified or not.


"There is just too much room in this legislation for abuse.''
But Mr Ruddock said the laws made no mention of any particular group of people.


"The legislation in no way countenances people being identified in relation to these matters because of the race,'' Mr Ruddock told ABC radio.


"These issues are behaviour-based and if people come from a particular group but behaving in a particular way brings them to notice then they will come to notice and the prospect of an order being sought might be possible.''


AAP, 25 September 2005



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