Terrorist ’severely prejudiced’: court

Abdul Nacer Benbrika. Terrorist. Terrorism. Abdul Benbrika
Abdul Nacer Benbrika was jailed for 15 years for directing the operations of a terror cell. Picture: Supplied

Lawyers acting for a terrorist have bemoaned “Kafkaesque” issues with dealing with the Australian government as a trial date looms on his detention.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika was jailed for 15 years in February 2009 after he was convicted on charges of being a member of, and directing the activities of, a terrorist organisation.

The case against Benbrika was that he was the “guiding light” of a Melbourne cell and planning a jihad terror act in Australia or overseas.

His trial was told he had an “enormous influence” over the young men that followed him and sought to imbue a fanatical hatred of non-Muslims.

Benbrika first came to the attention of Australia’s national security agency ASIO in 2002 and was extensively monitored before his arrest in November 2005.

ABC TV video still of self-styled Islamic radical Abdul Nacer Benbrika (aka Abu Bakr) during an interview with ABC-TV at his home in Melbourne.
Abdul Nacer Benbrika was convicted and jailed for directing the activities of a terrorist organisation in Melbourne. Picture: ABC

He completed his sentence in November 2020 but was kept behind bars after the then home affairs minister Peter Dutton sought a continuing detention order.

The order allows courts to keep convicted terrorists in custody for up to three years if they come to the view they pose a continued danger to the community.

Benbrika returned before the Victorian Supreme Court on Thursday amid a longstanding legal challenge to the detention order.

His counsel, Dan Star KC, had previously told the court that he believed his client was subject to the order because the government had failed to disclose a report criticising a risk assessment tool.

Mr Star told the court that his client had been “severely prejudiced” by the conduct of the Australian government ahead of a trial expected to start next week.

“Mr Benbrika has served his full sentence for crimes a long time ago,” he said.

“We are on the eve of a significant trial that affects the liberty of Mr Benbrika and now the Attorney-General wants to rely on a substantially new case.

“He has been denied fairness and natural justice … it appears a Kafkaesque situation.”

Court illustration Abdul Nacer Benbrika, leader of terror cell on trial in Melbourne County Court on terrorism charges.
Benbrika was detained for three years after his prison term ended after a court found he represented an ongoing risk. Picture: Supplied.

Kafkaesque refers to the writings of author Franz Kafka – known for his depiction of characters facing absurd situations or illogically complex bureaucratic processes.

Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth agreed, saying all parties had been put in a “ridiculous situation” by Canberra.

“This issue has been bubbling on for a couple of years … I understand your frustration,” she said.

Despite the issues raised, the court was told Benbrika wanted the trial to proceed.

Counsel for the Attorney-General, Peter Hanks KC, told the court it was planned Benbrika would be transferred to immigration detention at Long Bay Prison in NSW after his detention order expired.

Benbrika, who migrated to Australia from Algeria in 1989, was stripped of his citizenship in 2020 and now holds an ex-citizen visa.

This is the subject of a High Court challenge, set to be heard later this year.