From The Australian today.
Officials ‘carefully considered’ Neil Prakash foreign citizenship
Senior officials from security agencies and government departments carefully considered whether Neil Prakash was a foreign national prior to the stripping of terrorist recruiter’s Australian citizenship.
Speaking out after Fiji’s top immigration official said Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash is not a citizen the country, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton also said the government had been in “close contact” with Fiji since the citizenship-stripping decision was made.
“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 in a statement.
“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. The Government has been in close contact with the Government of Fiji since Mr Prakash was determined to have lost his citizenship.
“Australia will continue our close co-operation with Fiji on this issue and the many other areas of mutual interest.”
Mr Dutton also said the board, made up of senior officials from government departments and security agencies, examined the requirements for citizenship-stripping, including his membership of a terrorist group and “that he was a citizen of another country”.
Immigration minister David Coleman also said the board carefully and correctly followed the process required to strip Prakash of his Australian citizenship.
“He’s not an Australian citizen. The process has been followed absolutely correctly by the board and he isn’t a citizen by virtue of his conduct,” Mr Coleman said.
“The process that the board went through is exactly the right process in these situations. When there is a suggestion that a person may be a dual citizen and may have been involved in terrorist activities, then that board will very carefully review the facts.”
Prakash, 27, is currently in Turkish custody and was notified he was no longer an Australian citizen last month.
Mr Dutton’s statement came after Fijian Immigration Department director Nemani Vuniwaqa told the Fiji Sun that Prakash was not a citizen of that country.
Under Australia’s citizenship-stripping regime, a person can only cease to become a citizen if they are a dual-national.
“Neil Prakash has not been or is a Fijian citizen,” Mr Vuniwaqa said. “He was born in Australia and has acquired Australian citizenship since birth.
“The department has searched the immigration system and confirms that he has not entered the country nor applied for citizenship since birth.”
Mr Vuniwaqa and another spokesman for the Fijian government would not return calls or respond to written questions from The Australian this morning.
At the time of Prakash’s birth in 1991, the Fijian constitution stated that any person born to a Fijian father after 1987 automatically became a citizen of that country, regardless of where they were born.
But it is unclear whether subsequent constitutions and legislation put in place since then have nullified those citizenships.
Australia’s extradition request will remain in place until the conclusion of appeal and criminal proceedings against Prakash in Turkey, including any custodial sentence imposed on him by a Turkish court.
Prakash, who fought with Islamic State under the nom de guerre Abu Khalid al-Cambodi, had his passport cancelled in 2014 and was added to Australia’s sanctions list three years ago.
Radicalised in Melbourne, Prakash is facing Turkish terrorism charges, including for membership of a terrorist organisation.
The terrorist, who featured in Islamic State propaganda videos and led an international recruitment drive for English-speaking extremists, had argued in court that he did not want to return to Australia and asked to be taken to a Muslim country.
Labor’s immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann questioned the process undertaken by the government.
“The department actually hasn’t backed in the minister in relation to the issues,” he said. “You can’t say he’s actually a Fijian national. And therefore there’s issues in terms of the Citizenship Act itself and whether Mr Prakash’s citizenship can be stripped off him.”