ASIO 'unlawfully' coerced man into interview

Australian spies illegally coerced a man into speaking with them and failed to inform him of his rights, a tribunal says.

However, ASIO has denied the allegation, saying it ''acts lawfully at all times, including when conducting interviews''.

Three members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, including its president, Justice Duncan Kerr, chastised the domestic spy agency and the Immigration Department last month for the treatment of a Muslim migrant who was deemed a security risk.

The man, referred to only as CXQY, moved to Australia in 2005. He applied for citizenship in 2011 as he wanted to join the police force.

ASIO blocked his application, saying he held extremist Islamic views and was likely to engage in politically motivated violence.

The migrant, who lives in Perth, appealed against ASIO's assessment. He said his religious faith was strong but he was not an extremist, and he believed military jihad, or holy war, was only justified ''where the country in which a person is living is attacked''.


The tribunal, which heard some evidence in secret, backed ASIO's decision, saying it had correctly assessed that ''CXQY holds more extreme beliefs than he told the tribunal, in particular that violence may, in some circumstances, be an acceptable means of achieving political objectives''.

However, the members rebuked the spy agency for wrongly forcing the man into two interviews.

The trio expressed ''concern that prior to attending the two interviews, CXQY appears to have been informed that if he wanted to be granted citizenship participating in the interviews ASIO conducted was compulsory".

"If so, there appears to have been no lawful basis for that assertion. We also note CXQY was not advised that he could be accompanied to the interviews by another person, including a lawyer.''

A senior ASIO agent, using the pseudonym Lachlan Sawyer, told the tribunal CXQY was dishonest and evasive when discussing several associates, giving answers that contained ''lies, deceits and misleading information''.

CXQY conceded he was deceitful but said he feared being found guilty by association to people who were ''more of an acquaintance than a close friend''.

He did not know why the spies were questioning him and said he was nervous and scared inside.

''I was under pressure from the ASIO officers and I feared that admitting I knew the alleged associates would get me into trouble. So I [lied] to evade the persistent questioning,'' he said.

Under cross-examination, Mr Sawyer said his agency did not compel people to take part in security assessment interviews, but he was unaware whether CXQY had been told the interviews were voluntary and that he could have a lawyer with him.

The tribunal admonished ASIO but said the apparently unlawful interviews did not affect its decision on the migrant's appeal.

A spokesman for the spy agency said on Tuesday it always acted lawfully but it did not comment on specific individuals, investigations or cases.