Accused Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash is getting consular help from Australia
He has been wanted for arrest since August 2015 after he was linked to a suspected plot to behead a Victorian police officer on Anzac Day
Australia is giving consular help to the suspected senior Islamic State recruiter and conspirator Neil Prakash, with hopes he will share intelligence on the terrorist group, a federal minister has said.
Australia’s most wanted man, who has been held in Turkey on terrorism charges since his arrest last October, has received “basic” help from consular officials, the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has confirmed.
News Corp reported the help came at the request of the accused terrorist, who has told Turkish authorities he has two children born during fighting in Syria who may be entitled to Australian citizenship.
The Australian government’s focus was on intelligence that Prakash could share on Islamic State, Bishop’s cabinet colleague Greg Hunt said on Sunday.
“That’s our interest, precisely so as to protect Australians at home and abroad,” the health minister told Channel Seven.
Prakash has given Turkish police an account of his journey from Islamic State fighter to deserter who spent six months on the run after a death threat from a former commander, News Corp said.
Bishop had to issue a special permit for Australian diplomatic officials to lend help to Prakash, who was subject to financial sanctions that brought 10 years jail to anyone giving him material support.
Officials have twice visited Prakash at a maximum security jail in Gaziantep and liaised with Turkish authorities on his behalf.
Prakash, who appeared in Islamic State propaganda material as one of its chief recruiters, was interviewed by Australian government officials in the months following his arrest on the Turkish border.
The former Melbourne man, whose father was Fijian Indian and his mother Cambodian, is accused in Turkey of planning and encouraging Islamic State terrorist attacks on Australians.
Prakash has been wanted for arrest by Australian federal police since August 2015 after he was linked to a suspected plot to behead a Victorian police officer on Anzac Day.
Bishop told News Corp that Turkish criminal proceedings would have to be concluded before any extradition to Australia took place.
“If he were surrendered to Australia I expect him to face prosecution for very serious offences,’’ she said.
Prakash was last year mistakenly thought to be killed in a US-led bombing of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Iraqi officials at the time said he was in a bank commandeered by Islamic State to sort money for distribution across its so-called caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.
News Corp reported that the Kilis criminal court in southern Turkey had been presented with Prakash’s own account of his journey from Islamic State recruit to deserter after being injured in a bombing.
Prakash reportedly told Turkish police he had decided to quit fighting for Islamic State after suffering arm and chest injuries from the bombing by Kurdish fighters in Kobane.
While recuperating at a health centre in Membic, Prakash told his Islamic State commander he did not want to fight and then obtained a transfer to another group in Raqqa.
“The [Islamic State] commander insisted I fight again and when I said I won’t fight then they threatened to kill me,” Prakash reportedly told police. “Then I found a way and I ran from their Raqqa headquarters.”
He claimed he then spent six months on the run inside Syria before deciding to flee into Turkey with the widow of a friend who was against him joining Islamic State. News Corp reported that Prakash paid a people smuggler US$4,000 to cross the Syrian border with Turkey but was betrayed by an associate and arrested by soldiers on October 23.
Prakash maintained for months he was a Cambodian national called Piseth Duong, before reportedly admitting to his true identity by March and seeking Australian consular help.