Suspected IS recruiter arrested on return to Australia
30-year-old Mohamed Zuhbi arrived in Melbourne on Saturday after being deported by Turkey. Australian counter-terrorism officials immediately took him into custody.
Zuhbi travelled from Sydney to Turkey in 2013 and then allegedly on to Syria.
He had previously expressed support for Islamic State and reportedly helped foreign fighters travel to Syria to join the extremist group.
"I am vocally supportive of Islamic State, and I believe they are the future of Syria, and I believe they are the future of the Islamic empire," Zuhbi said in a video that 10 News First Syndey aired.
However he also claimed that he was only on the Syria-Turkey border to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.
He served eight months in a Turkish prison after being captured by pro-Turkish forces in northern Syria in June 2019, where he was detained for three months.
He reportedly confessed to Turkish authorities that he worked as a translator and communications official for the IS, according to Turkish court documents that Australia's ABC News reviewed.
Zuhbi appeared before Melbourne magistrates court via video link on Sunday morning.
He is charged with a range of offences including supporting a terrorist organisation, engaging in hostile activity overseas, assisting another person's engamgement in hostile activity overseas, and entering a banned jurisdiction.
“We are pursuing all avenues of enquiry and this includes allegations that this man was an active recruiter, who sought to encourage Westerners to leave their countries and join the Islamic State,” the Australian federal police’s Commander Stephen Dametto said in a statement.
“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.”
“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,” Dametto added.
Zuhbi is also wanted by US authorities for multiple offences including conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country.