Tue, Aug 29, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Australia issues control order for terror suspect


A man accused of receiving funds from al-Qaeda in Pakistan has become the first Australian to have his movements restricted under tough new anti-terrorism laws, a government official said yesterday.

Joseph Thomas, a 32-year-old Muslim convert nicknamed "Jihad Jack" by Australian media, was convicted in the Victorian state Supreme Court in February of accepting US$3,500 and a plane ticket to Australia from an al-Qaeda agent in Pakistan and having a false passport. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

But he was freed this month when an appeal court ruled that a jury shouldn't have heard evidence that helped convict him.

Thomas yesterday became the first person subjected to a control order under new terror laws, restricting his movements because he is deemed a terrorist threat, the federal attorney-general's spokesman Michael Pelly said.

"It is an interim order until there is a court hearing on Sept. 1," Pelly said.

Thomas' lawyer Rob Stary said his client would challenge the order in court.

The order subjects Thomas to a curfew between 5pm and 9am and requires that he stay in the state capital Melbourne, his brother Les Thomas said.

Joseph Thomas was taking a beach vacation in eastern Victoria with his young family when police served the order, his brother said.

"He was slapped with a court order and told to get back to Melbourne immediately," said Les Thomas, who described the order as persecution.

"He was trying to spend some time getting to know his wife and kids," Les Thomas said. "He has a long way to go before he gets over what he has been put through in Australia and Pakistan."

"We just didn't expect them to stoop this low," Les Thomas added.

The order was made possible by a raft of new laws condemned by civil libertarians that came into effect in December designed to reduce the risk of homegrown terrorism following the London transport bombing in July last year.

Courts can order such restrictions, including that suspected extremists be monitored with tracking bracelets for up to a year, if a magistrate finds that they are necessary to protect the public from a terrorist attack or that the suspect has been trained by a terrorist group.

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