SYDNEY – Australia is preparing to outlaw the Palestinian radical group Islamic Jihad under tough new counter-terrorism laws, officials said on Wednesday.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock’s office said it was currently canvassing state governments and other authorities about banning a “terrorist group” and would likely announce the decision early next week.
Ruddock has refused to reveal the name of the organisation until the consultations are completed, but the premier of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, said in a statement that it was Islamic Jihad.
Premier Bob Carr said in the statement received Wednesday that he would endorse the proposal to ban the Palestinian Islamic group, which has carried out numerous suicide attacks against Israel.
“I accept the commonwealth government’s view, based on careful consideration of the intelligence available, that this organisation should be urgently outlawed in Australia,” Carr said.
“We are all committed to working together and cooperating with the federal government to ban terrorist organisations from our shores,” he said.
Under counter-terrorism laws that came into effect recently, anyone belonging to, training or recruiting members for a banned terrorist group can be imprisoned for up to 25 years.
The legislation has already been used to outlaw another Palestinan group, Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Southeast Asian group Jemaah Islamiyah and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.
New legislation adopted last month permits the government to unilaterally outlaw suspected terror groups without parliamentary approval.
Previously such bans could only be imposed on groups listed as terrorist organisations by the United Nations.
Earlier this month authorities in Sydney arrested two Pakistan-born men alleged to have trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba and to have been planning terrorist attacks in Australia.
The two men, Faheem Khalid Lodhi, 34, and medical student Izhar ul-Haque, 21, have been linked to a French terror suspect, Willie Brigitte, who was deported late last year and is being held in a French prison.
Carr was due to chair a meeting of the New South Wales cabinet committee on counter-terrorism to discuss issues arising from the arrests of Lodhi and Haque, officials said.