Radio Interview: Bilal Khazal charged with terrorism offences Print E-mail
Sunday, 06 June 2004
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 motivated.


After 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 denies.

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.

WALEED 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.

MICHAEL 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.

Keysar Trad, who has known Mr Khazal since the late 1980s, but doesn't consider him a friend, has also questioned why he was arrested yesterday.

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?

KEYSAR 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 since 1994.

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.

WALEED 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.

MICHAEL 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


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