Australia defends stripping accused terrorist of citizenship


Australia defended its move to strip alleged terrorist Neil Prakash of his citizenship after accusations on Wednesday that the action left him stateless while imprisoned in Turkey.

Doubts also emerged about the legality of the Australian government's decision, after Fiji officials reportedly said Prakash did not have Fijian citizenship.

The Australian-born Prakash, 27, is being held in a Turkish jail on terrorism charges after crossing the border from Syria, where he had been an active recruiter for Islamic State (IS). Under Australian law, people cannot be stripped of their citizenship if it leaves them stateless.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said at the weekend that he understood Prakash had dual citizenship with Fiji because his father was born there.

But the Fiji Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday that the director of Fiji's immigration department said Prakash had never visited Fiji, and neither sought nor held Fijian citizenship.

Defending his action on Wednesday, Dutton said in a statement that the Citizenship Loss Board brought the Prakash case to his attention and said that he should lose his citizenship because he fought with IS from May 2016.

"Neither the Citizenship Loss Board nor I make decisions on whether an individual ceases to be an Australian citizen, as the provisions operate automatically by virtue of a person's conduct," Dutton said. "The government has been in close contact with the government of Fiji since Mr Prakash was determined to have lost his citizenship," Dutton added. (dpa)

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