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Australia control order on terror suspect debated

[JURIST] Australian legal and political observers appeared split Tuesday in the wake of the Australian government's first control order under new anti-terror laws limiting the activities of an uncharged terror suspect. A court Monday issued the order [JURIST report] at the instance of Attorney General Philip Ruddock; under it, Joseph Terrence "Jihad Jack" Thomas [advocacy website] is required to stay within the city of Melbourne, report to police three times a week, remain at home between midnight and 5 AM each day, and only use an approved provider to connect to telephones and the Internet. Critics called the order unwarranted [Sydney Morning Herald report], pointing out that Thomas' original terror-related conviction [BBC report] had been overturned [Australian report; judgment] by the Victoria Court of Appeal as to all charges earlier this month, and suggesting that the order was a political ploy to support government policy and avoid embarrassment. Others, however, including federal opposition leader Kim Beazley, said that the order was a prudent security measure [ABC Australia report] and that a onetime terror suspect like Thomas should be treated analogously to a sex offender who presented an ongoing danger to the public even while ostensibly "free."

Thomas was the first Australian incarcerated under the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act 2002 [text] after having been found guilty in February of receiving $3,500 from a senior Al Qaeda member and of carrying a fake passport. His conviction was overturned because authorities were found to have interviewed Thomas against his will and without access to a lawyer when he was arrested in Pakistan in 2003. The interim control order issued against him is scheduled will be challenged [ABC Australia report] at a Federal Court hearing scheduled for Friday in the Australian capital of Canberra. On Tuesday, Ruddock, speaking to reporters, expressed confidence [transcript] that the order would be upheld:

you [have to] recognize that there will be legal challenges around what you may seek to do even though it’s there for the purpose of protecting the Australian community you have to be assiduous in assuring that the evidence that will be presented will stand up to scrutiny. And the Australian Federal Police have been, in dealing with these issues, very conscious of the significant tests that they may have to meet in bringing forward proposals
The Sydney Morning Herald has more.

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