SYDNEY - A convicted terrorist has had his Australian citizenship canceled by authorities in Canberra. Algerian-born Abdul Nacer Benbrika was jailed for 12 years in 2008 for his role in a plot to attack targets in the states of Victoria and New South Wales.
Benbrika is the first person to be stripped of Australian citizenship while in the country. Others who have had their citizenship canceled were overseas when the orders were made.
Authorities still consider Benbrika to be a threat to Australia. He was arrested in 2005 along with 17 other suspects and charged with planning multiple attacks on Australian soil, including on a nuclear reactor in Sydney, a casino in Melbourne and a major sporting final. He was found guilty of terrorism offenses and sent to prison for 15 years.
His sentence expired November 5 but he remains behind bars under an interim detention order.
He is expected to be deported to Algeria, where he was born, and has 90 days to appeal the decision to cancel his citizenship.
Opposition Labor senator Penny Wong says she supports the decision to deport the convicted extremist.
“We did understand when we passed those laws through the Parliament that the cancellation of citizenship was a big step, but a necessary step in certain circumstances and Mr. Benbrika’s activities and his conviction are well-known to all of us, and that is why Labor supported the passage of that legislation," she said.
The deportation of convicted terrorists is not universally popular in Australia. Spy chiefs fear that stripping them of citizenship might increase the global threat of extremism, by simply exporting dangerous individuals with radical views to other countries. They have urged the Australian government to use its powers sparingly to avoid unintended consequences.
Benbrika has lived in Australia since 1989. While he remains in prison in Victoria, he has been granted an ex-citizen visa.