Australia PM rules out leniency for ex-jihadists

Australia PM rules out leniency for ex-jihadists
Australia PM rules out leniency for ex-jihadists

Australia has ruled out any leniency for returning jihadists following reports that three of its nationals suspected of fighting with Islamic State were in secret negotiations with Canberra to come home.

The Australian newspaper said the three had approached authorities via intermediaries or family members, but that the talks were stalled over what punishment they would face and fears of the risk they might pose if they were reissued passports and allowed to return.

The conservative government has taken a tough line on tackling radicalised citizens, with more than 100 leaving the country for Iraq and Syria to fight with the Islamic State group.

Canberra late last year passed a law criminalising travel to terror hotspots without good reason, with those charged facing up to 10 years in jail.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the full force of the law would apply to anyone who returns, even if they claim to have reformed.

"A crime is a crime is a crime," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"If you go abroad to break Australian law, if you go abroad to kill innocent people in the name of misguided fundamentalism and extremism, if you go abroad to become an Islamist killer, well, we are hardly going to welcome you back into this country.

"Again, I repeat, if you go abroad to join a terrorist group and you seek to come back to Australia, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and jailed," he added.

"The Australian people expect their country to be safe and someone who has been a terrorist abroad could very easily become a terrorist here in Australia."

Australia raised its threat level to high last September and has since carried out a series of counter-terrorism raids, with several alleged plots foiled this year.

A lawyer representing one of the three Australian men told Fairfax radio that his client, an Australian-born convert to Islam, was prepared to face the full force of the law and wanted to use his experience to discourage would-be jihadists from joining the terror group.

Rob Stary said if he were capable of rehabilitation, "then we should utilise him, we should at least engage in the discussion, but the shutters have been put up by the (Australian Federal Police)".