Australia denies terror suspect illegally deported

12th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

SYDNEY, July 11 (AFP) - Australian officials on Sunday denied terror suspect Willie Brigitte was illegally deported to France and played down reports he could be freed if an appeal about the procedure was upheld.

SYDNEY, July 11 (AFP) - Australian officials on Sunday denied terror suspect Willie Brigitte was illegally deported to France and played down reports he could be freed if an appeal about the procedure was upheld.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported French counter-terrorism authorities had been forced to suspend their interrogation of Brigitte, who is being held in a prison outside Paris, pending an appeal on the legality of his removal from Australia late last year.

"From his arrest in Australia to his arrival in France, his detention for interrogation and his placement in prison ... everything has been illegal," Brigitte's French lawyer Jean-Claude Durimel told Melbourne's Age newspaper.

Durimel said Brigitte's appeal partly rested on Brigitte's marriage to an Australian citizen, former soldier and Muslim convert Melanie Brown, when he was in Sydney.

Brigitte, 35, is suspected of planning a terrorist attack "of great size" while in Australia and has been accused of links to Al-Qaeda.

He was deported to France in October.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said Brigitte was legally deported because he had breached Australian immigration laws, and that he was not extradited from the country to face charges in France.

"If the argument is that he was extradited then that is, of course, a flawed assumption," Ruddock told ABC radio. "Extradition is a legal process for people who are the subject of charges to be removed under extradition agreements between countries.

"Brigitte was never extradited from Australia, he was removed because he was an unlawful non-citizen."

Ruddock said Canberra would seek clarification of the status of the investigation, adding he would be concerned if French authorities had "failed to cover all bases".

Opposition homeland security spokesman Robert McClelland said Australian authorities had been too quick to deport Brigitte, instead of interrogating him about his activities in Sydney.

"It casts further doubt on the wisdom of Australian authorities to return him to France rather than interrogate him in Australia," McClelland said.

"This decision was made with undue haste and the attorney-general should explain whether Australian authorities made inquiries of French authorities on whether the decision was made legally." 

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© AFP

Subject: French news

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