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Australia revokes Algerian-born terror plotter's citizenship in unprecedented move Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Australia revokes Algerian-born terror plotter's citizenship in unprecedented move

Benbrika was jailed over a plot to attack a Melbourne football match [Getty/ Archive]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2020

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Abdul Nacer Benbrika has become the first Australian to be stripped of his citizenship while still in the country.

Australia has stripped the citizenship of an Algerian-born cleric convicted of leading a terror cell in 2005, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said on Wednesday.

Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who was jailed for planning an attack on a football match in Melbourne, has become the  first Australian to be stripped of his citizenship while still in the country.

"If it's a person who's posing a significant terrorist threat to our country, then we'll do whatever is possible within Australian law to protect Australians," Dutton told reporters.

Benbrika, who remains in custody, was jailed for 15 years in 2009 for directing a terrorist group, possessing material associated with planning a terrorist attack and being a member of a terrorist group. He is eligible for release from next month.

Under Australian law, however, a person convicted of a terror offence can be held for up to three years after their sentence finishes. 

Having become the first Australian to be made stateless while still in the country, Benbrika now has 90 days to appeal the decision before he is deported to Algeria.

Under Australian law, citizens can only be stripped on their nationality if they hold citizenship with another country.

Last year, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) warned that the use of this government power "may have unintended or unforeseen adverse security outcomes".

CJ Werleman, an Australian writer and activist against Islamophobia, says the use of such extraordinary powers sends a worrying message to Australia's Muslim population.

"It’s a slippery slope, given Muslims have become the referent object in security discourse, and thus the target of discriminatory counterterrorism measures, despite violent right wing extremists identified by the country’s top spy agency as an equal or greater threat," Werleman told The New Arab, highlihgting that Australia did not strip the citizenship of Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant.

"Time and time again we see Muslims being made the exception to the rule or norm under the rubric of the 'war on terror'," he added.

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