Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton holds a press conference in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 20 June 2019 (reissued 13 March 2020). EFE-EPA FILE/DEAN LEWINS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Australia’s High Court restores convicted terrorist’s citizenship

Sydney, Australia, Nov 1 (EFE).- Australia’s top court on Wednesday restored the citizenship of convicted terrorist Abdul Nacer Benbrika after declaring a decision in 2020 to strip him of it invalid.

Benbrika, sentenced in 2009 to 15 years in prison for terrorism for plotting attacks on several iconic places in Australia, was the first individual to have his citizenship revoked onshore in the country.

In November 2020, former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton revoked his citizenship, which he had been granted in 1998, and transferred him to an immigration detention center for likely deportation.

However, the convicted man, born in Algeria in 1960 and married in 1992 to an Australian woman of Lebanese descent, challenged the decision in court.

Benbrika’s citizenship was restored on Wednesday after the High Court invalidated the decision in a split ruling.

Six judges were in favor of the decision while one opposed it.

According to the ruling published on the court’s website, no public official, in this case the then interior minister, has the power to impose additional punishments on those convicted by the Australian justice system.

“It is invalid because it purports to repose in the Minister the exclusively judicial function of punishing criminal guilt, contrary to Ch III of the Constitution,” the court said.

Upon learning of the court decision, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a press conference that they would “examine” the ruling and “respond appropriately.”

“We’ll examine the ruling and respond appropriately. Quite clearly there was an issue with the former government’s legislation, which is what this ruling relates to. But when it comes to the legal consequences, we’ll seek advice for the ruling and respond appropriately,” he said.

A former extremist cleric, Benbrika, preached to his followers that it was justified to kill women and children during “jihad” or holy war.

He was arrested in 2005, along with 16 others, for planning to carry out several attacks on a rugby match and a nuclear reactor.

Australia has passed a series of anti-Islamic terrorism laws since 2014, including one that allows revoking the citizenship of dual-nationals who traveled to the Middle East to fight with the Islamic State.

Since then, the Australian authorities have revoked the citizenship of more than a dozen people, including Neil Prakash, the former head of IS recruitment, who until 2018 was Australia’s most wanted terrorist.

Persons convicted of terrorism or other major crimes and holding dual nationality may have their citizenship revoked under similar laws in other nations, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. EFE