Melbourne, January 9: Once believed to be dead, Australia’s most wanted Islamist terrorist, Neil Prakash, whose father is Fiji-Indian, was arrested while trying to cross over from war-torn Syria into Turkey.
Prakash was using false documents and a fake name, when he was arrested by Turkish officials in October 2016 after leaving Islamic State-controlled territory.
According to official sources, Prakash’s arrest was the result of close collaboration between Australian and Turkish authorities.
Prakash, who was born in Melbourne to Fijian father and Cambodian mother, is currently in jail in Turkey, awaiting trial on multiple terror charges. Prakash is also known as Abu Khalid al-Cambodi.
Late, last year, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had publicized that the Australia had revoked Prakash’s rights as an Australian citizen because of his affiliation with the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.
The government said that Prakash’s citizenship could be stripped because it had “clear advice” that Prakash was either a citizen of Fiji or he was entitled to Fijian citizenship.
Australian terrorists can be stripped of their citizenship, only if they hold a second nationality, according to a legislation passed in 2015. This was to ensure that no person is left stateless.
However, Fijian officials recently rejected claims that Prakash was a citizen of Fiji.
The Fiji Sun newspaper quoted a senior Fijian official that jihadist Prakash was not in fact a citizen of that country
Fiji’s Immigration Director Nemani Vuniwaqa told the Fijian Daily that that there was no evidence of Prakash or his parents ever being Fijian citizens.
“For a child of a Fiji citizen born overseas, the parent has to apply for citizenship for the child to become a Fiji citizen. If the parent does not apply then the child does not become a Fiji citizen automatically,” he said.
“The department has searched the immigration system and confirms that he has not entered the country nor applied for citizenship since birth.”
Mr Vuniwaqa told ABC that he had not received any communication from the Australian government about Prakash’s case.
“I first received info from a local media source who quoted that Mr Prakash had been stripped of his Australian citizenship,” he said.
“There was no formal communication with regards to the plans by the Australian government.”
Children of a former Fijian citizen can apply for citizenship, only if one of the parents was still a Fijian citizen at the time of their birth.
Despite being labelled “embarrassment to the country” by the federal opposition, Mr Dutton is standing by his declaration that Islamic State member Prakash has been stripped of his Australian citizenship despite doubts whether Prakash would meet requirements for Fijian nationality.
A statement was issued saying that the “citizenship loss board” – consisting of senior government officials had examined Prakash’s case.
“Mr Prakash’s case was brought to my attention after careful consideration by the citizenship loss board that Mr Prakash’s Australian citizenship had ceased by virtue of his actions in fighting for Islamic State from May 2016,” Mr Dutton said.
Canberra is seeking Prakash’s extradition pending the outcome of his trial and any jail term he serves in Turkey. It is most likely that Prakash would also serve time in here, if convicted upon being extradited to Australia.