The Turkish extradition case of Australian IS militant and recruiter Neil Prakash has been postponed until July 19, with a counter-terror expert casting doubts an extradition will ever occur.
There are doubts notorious Australian jihadist Neil Prakash will ever return to Australia after a Turkish court postponed the extradition case against him.
Neil Prakash appeared via video link at a Turkish courthouse near the Syrian border. The court postponed his case until July 19, pending the result of a Turkish terror-related investigation.
His court-appointed lawyer, Mehmet Unver applied for bail, but said that his client could face charges including “engaging in hostile activities in a foreign state."
“The presiding judge said the investigation is to look into charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation. Now we'll have to wait for that to conclude” Mr Unver said.
Australia is seeking to extradite the 26-year-old who has been in Turkish custody since 2016 after deserting IS in Syria.
Doubts over eventual extradition
Counter-terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton from Deakin University believes the delays could compromise Australia's efforts to extradite him.
“They of course reasonably can say Turkish law comes first put him away in a Turkish jail and possibly he disappears at some point - I'd be surprised if he comes back to Australia any time soon,” Professor Barton told SBS News.
Professor Barton also believes strained relations between the Recep Tayyip Erdogan-led Turkish government and the western world could see Prakash remain in Turkey.
“We have to see the sequence of events in a context of Turkish politics,” Professor Barton said.
“All the rhetoric from Ankara suggests that there are no good relationships with the western countries. Australia has been less in the frame than say Germany or even America. There’s no reason to believe Erdogan’s regime has strong positive sentiment towards Australia and any desire to do Australia a favour.”
Professor Barton argues that the Turkish regime has been lenient on Islamist terror groups in the past, which could be used to Prakash’s advantage to eventually “disappear”.
“Staying in Turkey is frankly his best option for the foreseeable term, given that the Turkish regime has been very soft on jihadis,” he said.
“It’s used al-Qaeda-affiliated militants, and regularly turned a blind eye to Islamic State or at least arrested and then released (alleged fighters).
“(Prakash) was caught on the border. Circumstances are as such that they can’t deny that they’ve got him. But trying him in a Turkish court they, of course, can reasonably say that Turkish law comes first, put him away in a Turkish jail, then possibly he disappears at some point.
“I’d be surprised if he comes back to Australia anytime soon, if at all.”
A litany of terror charges
Prakash, a former rapper from Melbourne, has featured in IS videos, has been linked to several attack plans in Australia and has urged lone wolf attacks against the United States.
He has previously admitted being a member of IS but said he had nothing to do with the group in Australia.
Mehmet Unver told reporters in Turkey on Thursday that the trial was adjourned until July 19 so as to await a Turkish probe into Prakash's possible activities against Turkey.
Prakash was allegedly involved in a failed Melbourne plot to behead a police officer and another attack that saw two officers stabbed outside a Melbourne police station.
He faces a potential life sentence if he is convicted in Australia of terrorism offences.
Mr Unver said the suspect wanted to serve time either in Turkey or in another majority-Muslim country.
More than 100 terror suspects still at large: ASIO
His court appearance coincided with a security update from ASIO boss Duncan Lewis. Mr Lewis confirmed up to 90 Australians were killed fighting in Syria and Iraq, and that more than 100 suspected of supporting the terror group remain at large.
“The reality is plain for the remaining Australians they will likely be killed captured or have the potential for some to escape to neighbouring countries or further afield and that could include returning to Australia,” Mr Lewis said.
Professor Barton believes the latter outcome is unlikely.
“Australia's in a rather unique case - an island continent developed world biometric screening at the airports hard to get back into Australia by boat and even harder by air,” he said.
Australia's terror threat level remains at 'probable'.