A wanted man has been arrested on his return to Australia from Turkey following a NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) investigation into suspected terrorism offences.
The 30-year-old former Sydney man, Mohamed Zuhbi, who was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant in NSW, was arrested at Melbourne International Airport by members of the AFP International Counter Terrorism Investigations Response Team after arriving on a flight from Turkey about 4pm yesterday (Saturday, 8 May 2021). He was deported from Turkey, where he had served an 18-month prison sentence for joining Islamic State and related crimes.
The arrest warrant was sought by NSW JCTT – comprising the AFP, NSW Police Force (NSWPF), the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the NSW Crime Commission – following an investigation into the man’s alleged travel from Sydney to Turkey in 2013.
Authorities will allege the man then travelled from Turkey to Syria, where he allegedly facilitated the travel of foreign terrorist fighters to support Islamic State (IS).
The man appeared via video link before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this morning. He was remanded in the custody of Corrections Victoria where he will undergo mandatory quarantine.
He is next scheduled to appear on Friday, 21 May 2021 for an extradition application to NSW, where he will face court on a number of Commonwealth terrorism offences, including:
- One count of knowingly give support/resources to a terrorist organisation, contrary to section 102.7(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 25 years imprisonment.
- One count of engage in a hostile activity in a foreign state, contrary to section 6(1)(a) of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 20 years imprisonment.
- Three counts of provide support for another person to engage in a hostile activity in a foreign state, contrary to section 7(1)(e) of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment; and
- One count of entering, or remaining in, declared areas contrary to section 119.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence is punishable by a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment.
Australian Federal Police Counter Terrorism Investigations North Commander Stephen Dametto said the return of the Sydney man demonstrates Australian authorities continue working with overseas counterparts to support the management of terrorist threats offshore.
“Anyone who fights with, provides material support to, or associates with terrorist groups, is committing a serious crime and will be subject to the law,” Commander Dametto said.
“It has been an offence since 1978 to engage in hostile activity in a foreign country, unless serving in, or with the armed forces of the government of a foreign country.
“We have a responsibility to prevent our citizens from contributing to violence and instability overseas. Our laws are aimed at discouraging Australians from fighting in overseas conflicts and endangering their lives.”
NSWPF Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mark Walton, said this was another example of the strength of the partnerships and collaboration in the counter terrorism framework.
“The diligence and dedication of the NSW JCTT investigators, was complemented by the significant work conducted by other colleagues both here and abroad, to achieve this result,” Assistant Commissioner Walton said.
“Counter terrorism investigations remain a priority in NSW, and any act or plan for an act that may impact on the safety of our community – regardless of when it occurred – will be acted on with the same tenacity.”
There is no current or impending threat to the community related to the operation.