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Visa row on links to terror

Australia has granted asylum to five men who claim their membership of an organisation accused of ties to al-Qa'ida would expose them to persecution in their home countries.

The men from Syria, Egypt and India sought protection on the basis of their membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned in Syria and is considered the father of terrorist groups including al-Qa'ida.

Osama bin Laden's right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri adopted the organisation. And earlier this month, The Weekend Australian revealed that one of the five asylum-seekers, Ahmad al-Hamwi, who arrived in Australia 10 years ago, was a senior al-Qa'ida bagman linked to 1993 World Trade Centre bomber Ramzi Yousef.

US terror expert Steven Emerson said the practice of allowing Muslim Brotherhood members into Australia was "extremely dangerous".

Mr Emerson, credited with being the first expert to warn about al-Qa'ida, said Britain had a similar policy to Australia, which had led to a "high concentration of radicals" and the establishment of extremist networks there.

"I am astounded at such a policy ... there is no doubt that there are ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qa'ida," Mr Emerson said.

The five cases, which went before the Refugee Review Tribunal and the Federal Magistrates Court between 1996 and 2002, revealed the applicants had sought protection on the grounds they were members or associates of the Brotherhood.

Two men were given protection in 2002, after the September 11 attacks in the US. The Syrian arm of the Brotherhood has been linked to the al-Qa'ida members involved in planning the attacks.

In one case that went before the RRT, a Syrian revealed how he had been recruiting members to the Brotherhood without specifically mentioning the group. He said he tried to attract recruits by speaking about the aims of the group to overthrow the Syrian Government and usher in an Islamic society.

The former head of security with the French secret service, Alain Chouet, has this month written a briefing for the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre, warning that the Muslim Brotherhood should not be underestimated.

"Like every fascist movement on the trail of power, the Brotherhood has achieved perfect fluency in doublespeak," Mr Chouet wrote.

Tzvi Fleischer, an analyst with the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council, said: "While only parts of the Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists, the rest are cheerleaders or apologists for terrorism."

But federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the Muslim Brotherhood was not a listed terrorist organisation in Australia or in any of its allied countries. "It would be a flawed view to assume a person was a security risk simply because they had a link to an organisation of this name," he said.

Mr Ruddock said anyone wanting to come to Australia was checked by intelligence agencies but the Government would be concerned if any new information came to light linking them to terrorist organisations. Mr al-Hamwi was, by his own admission to the RRT, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.


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Original piece is http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,18889437,00.html


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