[JURIST] Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official website] is reconsidering the removal from Australian libraries of books which the government fears may incite terrorist activity. In a television interview [transcript] Monday Ruddock expressed a willingness to allow structured and limited research access to two banned books on jihad by the late Palestinian Islamist Abdullah Azam which have been taken off shelves at the University of Melbourne [university website]. Citing the importance of academic freedom, University Vice Chancellor Glynn Davis had asked the Attorney General to indicate whether a complete ban was intended.
After Australia passed a set of anti-terror laws [text of bill] in 2005, the Office of Film and Literature Classification [official website] refused to classify the books at issue because of their alleged promotion of terrorist violence and lack of educational merit. Without a classification, books cannot be sold, displayed, or loaned in Australia. The University removed the books from its shelves due to legal concerns and fines associated with possessing banned materials. The decision was met with a strong statement from a coalition of library and literary organizations deploring the forced removal of books because of the threat it poses to freedom of speech. ABC News has more. From Melbourne, The Age has additional coverage.