Australia has cancelled the citizenship of an Algerian-born Muslim cleric convicted of leading a terrorist cell that planned to bomb a football match in Melbourne in 2005.
Abdul Nacer Benbrika is now the first person to be stripped of his citizenship while still in Australia.
“If a person poses a significant terrorist threat to our country, then we’ll do whatever is possible within Australian law to protect Australians,” Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.
Benbrika was convicted on three terrorism charges. He was jailed for 15 years for directing a terrorist group, being a member of a terrorist group and possessing material associated with planning of a terrorist act.
He is still in an Australian prison despite finishing his sentence. Under Australian law the authorities can detain anyone convicted of terror offenses for up to three years after their sentence finishes, reports Reuters. His lawyers have appealed against his ongoing detention.
Under Australian law, a person can be stripped of citizenship but only if they are dual citizens as international law prevents people from being made stateless.
Australia used these powers in 2019 to revoke the citizenship of Neil Prakash, an alleged Daesh recruiter currently imprisoned in Turkey. Australia argued he was a dual citizen as he also has Fijian citizenship, though Fiji denied the claim.
The BBC says the Australian government has applied to Victoria state’s Supreme Court for a continuing detention order to extend Benbrika’s time in prison. For now, the Supreme Court has granted two temporary 28-day extensions to keep him behind bars.
On his eventual release, Benbrika will have 90 days to leave Australia and return to Algeria.