Ian Higgins

In mind, out of reach: Melbourne terrorist highlights flaws in legal system

Today, the general feeling is that just like Man Haron Monis, we had a terrorist and we let him go. However, the reality of the situation is that the solution is not that simple.

 

 

 

We awoke this morning to news of a 29-year-old refugee, Yacqub Khayre, committing an act of terrorism in the streets of Melbourne last night. His history of violence and drug abuse were quickly revealed, however, the most alarming and frustrating of revelations were confirmed when it was publicised that the Roxburgh Park man was out on parole.

It’s a question that the Prime Minister, I’m sure, will have more information on than the majority of we the horrified public. Unfortunately, the problem with the parole system – and the prison system in general – is that it is fundamentally flawed. That is not the say that it cannot be improved, but unless you delve into far-right-wing politics and start taking away basic human rights, the issue is unlikely to be resolved proper.

And if you think it can be, then why hasn’t it already?

The news of Yacqub Khayre’s parole comes two and half years after Australia’s other act of similar terrorism, when Man Haron Monis held the Lindt Café in Sydney hostage in 2014, before he was shot and killed by police. He too, was out on parole.

On occasion, I think about all the information that organisations such as ASIO, ASIS and the AFP must have that is never revealed to the public in fear of it causing complete and total moral panic. The amount of terrorist attacks that must be foiled per year in Australia alone is something you immediately push our of your mind.

How often, when an event of terrorism takes place anywhere in the world, are there dozens of arrests made within an extremely short period of it taking place? Surely much of this is to show that the police are actively doing something to help make the community feel safe; they must be seen to be handling the situation. But the fact that these are unlikely to be arbitrary arrests attests to the fact that our intelligence organisations know who the bad people are; they know who is involved in terrorist plots; they know who the ISIS sympathisers are; they know who has ties to extremist organisations in the Middle East, who travels to and from high alert countries.

The authorities and intelligence organisations know who is doing what, yet it remains a mountainous task to stop it.

So when Khayre was investigated over a planned attack on the Holsworthy army base in Sydney, I fail to believe that he wasn’t placed on every single watch list ASIO and ASIS has. However, as he was acquitted of those charges – as in, under our democratic judicial process, there was insufficient evidence to warrant a conviction beyond any doubt – what more could the police do? No doubt those involved in the attempted conviction and ultimate acquittal of Yacqub Khayre are feeling a wide array of emotions today. The facts of his involvement in the foiled terrorist plot in Sydney remain unclear, so it is easy to deduce that police found maps, weapons, bombs, drawings, plans, pictures et al, but his being acquitted would suggest that his links were far more tenuous than that. You would hope so anyway.

It is being reported that Khayre was imprisoned in 2013 following a violent, ice-fuelled home invasion and then was released on parole in November 2016. So what should the courts have done? Should they have denied Khayre release on the basis that he has a violent past and is suspected of links with terror organisations? That may be the opinion of a lot of Australians today. It may even be my opinion too. However, given that he was only convicted of the home invasion, his terrorism-links would have been near redundant when assessing his eligibility for parole. Is this what needs to change? Do we say that anyone who is imprisoned and who is also suspected of terrorist links is ineligible for parole?

If so, how long do you keep a man imprisoned for? The prisons are full. Global statistics show that offenders who are sent to prison are more likely to reoffend on the basis of networking in prison with other criminals. There is huge conjecture as to the benefits of prison and if it even achieves its long-term objective of deterring criminal activity.

If not that, should Khayre have been deported? Would he then have immediately gone to fight in the Middle East under the banner of religious extremism, thus the government would be accused of boosting ISIS’ ranks? Does that make us feel safer because it’s in a foreign land and not in a Brighton apartment?

Probably. Out of sight, out of mind.

There is an indelible feeling that this, along with the Sydney Siege, could have been prevented. The overwhelming feeling of “we had him and let him go” pervades the collective psyche. Unfortunately for civilised society and for the millions of people of every race and culture who are just trying to enjoy their lives under the Australian sunshine with friends and family, there are thousands and thousands of very bad, disenfranchised people in our society. And it appears that it is increasingly difficult to track every single one of them.

 

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