Turkey stuns Australia, rejects extradition of terrorist Neil Prakash
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Turkey stuns Australia, rejects extradition of terrorist Neil Prakash

Cairo: In a shock ruling, a Turkish court has rejected the Australian government’s request to
extradite Islamic State militant Neil Prakash to face terror charges in Australia.

The verdict paves the way for his release from the Gaziantep H-Type maximum-security prison, in south-eastern Turkey, according to his lawyer Alper Unver, provided the court clears him of other local crimes pending further investigations.

For now he remains behind bars as the prosecution assesses appealing the no-extradition verdict. A
hearing is set for September 27 where domestic terrorism charges will be examined before the court.

Prakash has been held in custody since October 2016 when he attempted to cross the border from Syria using fake documents. Turkish security forces captured him with the aid of Australian Federal Police in a joint operation.

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In a court hearing held in May this year, Melbourne born and raised Prakash maintained that he was a “normal soldier” with the Islamic State denying any leadership position.

He could face up to 25 years in a Turkish jail if convicted for being a senior leader with the militant group.

However, analysts following Prakash’s rise through the ranks of the militant group have expressed shock at the verdict citing his organisational cache.

A screen-grab of Australian-born Islamic State terrorist Neil Prakash.

A screen-grab of Australian-born Islamic State terrorist Neil Prakash.Credit:AAP

“When Prakash joined ISIS he used and distorted that notion of brotherhood to lure young men and women away from their homes and families in the West and into the dystopian nightmare that had become the Caliphate”, Alexandra Bain, a de-radicalisation researcher at St Thomas University in Canada told Fairfax Media.

She served as an expert witness in the case of 14-year-old British schoolboy who was heavily influenced online by Prakash. The teenager is facing a life sentence in a United Kingdom prison for his role in guiding 21-year-old Melbourne man Sevdet Besim in a foiled plot to behead a police officer during an Anzac Day parade in 2015.

A Melbourne court sentenced Besim in September 2016 to 10 years in prison for his attempt to commit an act of terrorism on Australian soil.

“The schoolboy had met any number of senior ISIS recruiters, including Abu Khalid al-Cambodi, who began referring to the boy as his ‘little brother’ and facilitated his introduction to the Australian jihadists”, she added.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop Credit:AAP

The schoolboy’s chats with Prakash and Besim were recorded on the encrypted messaging application Telegram, which is extremely popular among Islamic State fighters.

Bain noted that Prakash was able to “reach out and befriend at risk individuals and very quickly draw them into the group, where they find meaning and purpose and the minimal skills it requires to conduct operations in their home countries”.

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Prakash had thought to have been killed three times in coalition airstrikes in Iraq in 2016. He is considered a high priority asset for western governments with the Australian government putting out a warrant was for his arrest in August 2015.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has expressed disappointment at a Turkish court's decision to reject the extradition of Australian terrorist Neil Prakash.

"We will continue to engage with Turkish authorities as they consider whether to appeal the extradition decision," she said in a statement on Friday.

In rejecting the prosecutor's request for extradition, Judge Ismail Deniz said the conditions for the transfer hadn't been disclosed to the the court, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Prakash's lawyer Mehmet Alper Unver said there was no obstacle to his client being released from jail, barring further charges or indictments against him, according to the ABC.

Appearing in a propaganda video for Islamic State in April 2015, the former mechanic and rapper known by his nom de guerre Abu Khalid al-Cambodi, in reference to his Cambodian heritage, said that he travelled to Syria in 2013 after converting to Islam. He was a frequent attendee of an extremist Islamic centre in Melbourne that influenced several Australians to join terror groups in the Middle East.

Australian intelligence services estimate that around 110 Australians were engaged in fighting with terror groups in Iraq and Syria. Islamic State has been clandestinely rebuilding after its routing in its strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa respectively.

Fairfax Media with AAP