Turkey convicts Australia-born IS militant

Australian Neil Prakash was in jail in Turkey for seven years ahead of his sentencing.
Australian Neil Prakash was in jail in Turkey for seven years ahead of his sentencing.

A Turkish court has convicted an Australian-born Islamic State militant of belonging to a terror group and sentenced him to more than seven years in prison.

Neil Prakash, a former rapper from Melbourne, has been in a Turkish prison since 2016 when he was arrested near the Syrian border for attempting to cross into Turkey with fake documents.

Turkish prosecutors said the 27-year-old had illegally crossed into Syria in 2013 where he joined IS.

He had featured in IS videos, been linked to several attack plans in Australia and has urged lone wolf attacks against the United States.

Delivering its verdict on Friday, the Criminal Court in the southern city of Kilis found Prakash guilty of IS membership and sentenced him to seven years and six months in prison.

The court said he could be released in two-and-a-half years under Turkish law, however. The court rejected a request for his release pending the outcome of an appeal.

Prakash did not attend the hearing in person but took part in the proceedings through a teleconference system.

"I used to be a member of Daesh but I am no longer," he said, referencing another widely used term for IS.

He insisted that he was forced to feature in IS videos and photographs and that they were filmed against his will.

Prakash's lawyer argued that his client had travelled to Syria to learn about Islam and to help people, and never intended to aid a terror organisation, according to court papers.

Australia has stripped Prakash, who has Fijian and Cambodian parents, of his citizenship for extremist links.

It also wants Turkey to extradite Prakash, who faces allegations of inciting a terror plot in his home state of Victoria.

He faces a potential life sentence if convicted in Australia of terrorism offences.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Saturday said extradition proceedings are in process from Turkey to bring Prakash to Australia.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he hoped the confusion by the government over Prakash's status didn't influence the proceedings.

"We don't want you back. If you ever come back it will be in handcuffs and I hope they throw you in jail and throw away the key," he said.

According to the Australian Federal Police Prakash faces six charges including providing support to a terrorist organisation and engaging in hostile activity in a foreign country.

But Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton on Thursday said Prakash had "forfeited his Australian citizenship" under laws that punish dual-national terrorists.

"If Mr Shorten and Mr Dreyfus want to run the lawyer line to look for some technicality to allow terrorists to remain or return to our country - that is an issue for them," Mr Dutton said in a statement.

"The Morrison Coalition Government will seek to keep them as far from our shores as possible."

Australian Associated Press