Man behind bars over Syrian incursions

·3-min read

A man accused of terrorism-related offences claims he booked a flight out of Australia to protest harassment by authorities, a court has been told.

Omar Saghir was deported to Australia from Saudi Arabia last year and charged with preparation for foreign incursions as part of a group involved in travelling to Syria to engage in hostile activity.

Police allege he made an offer on social media to fund an associate in Syria to "engage in combat against the Syrian government", a court has been told.

He is alleged to have played a senior role in a Brisbane-based organisation that was religiously motivated and actively promoted a violent extremist ideology.

After almost seven months behind bars Saghir was bailed in February, but now faces extra charges - including wilful damage and bail breaches - after being arrested again in June.

Police allege he cut off an electronic monitoring device and booked a one-way ticket to Oman in his name before leaving his home at Alexandra Hills, southeast of Brisbane.

Last week Saghir was charged with advocating terrorism on social media.

Prosecutors were to apply in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday for Saghir's bail on the original charges to be revoked.

But defence lawyer Abdul Rashidi asked for an adjournment as he had been unable to take instructions from Saghir in Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre's maximum security unit and wanted his client to have a mental health assessment.

Mr Rashidi said Saghir claimed to have been harassed and some actions like booking the overseas flight were in protest of his treatment.

"The core issue is whether he did intend to follow through and fly out, or whether it was his way of protesting," Mr Rashidi told the court.

He said Saghir did not go past immigration gates and did not have a passport.

Police said previously Saghir's passport had been cancelled before he was deported to Australia.

While crown prosecutor Daniel Whitmore said "some" of what Mr Rashidi said about the harassment by police was not accepted, Justice Peter Callaghan responded he expected the claim would be "rejected in its entirety".

Mr Whitmore said all contact between police and Saghir once bailed was in documents before court.

"So it's not as if contact between police and respondent ... has been going on in secret," he added.

Justice Callaghan said what happened at the airport - whether that could legitimately be a protest or an attempt to abscond - would be important.

In what he described as his "soapbox moment," Justice Callaghan also questioned the range of penalties for a wilful damage offence that consisted of removing an electronic monitoring device.

"We hear bail applications every day in which the efficacy of the ankle bracelet regime is trumpeted," he said.

"If people were to think that they could circumvent it by cutting it off and receiving as little as two months' imprisonment then maybe it's not as effective as we are led to believe."

Justice Callaghan said wilful damage in such circumstances is an "attack on the system" that needed to be subject to severe punishment to be a deterrent.

He agreed to the adjournment, to a date yet to be set, saying it was "notoriously difficult" at the moment to take instructions from prisoners.

In granting Saghir bail in February, Justice David Jackson said the Australian government cancelled his passport making it impossible to get an extension of his visa in Saudia Arabia, while also banning him from returning.

"This was during a period when COVID-19 restrictions meant he could not get a flight back to Australia and it was only after the Saudis took action because of his unlawful visa status that he returned to this country.

"How does this government do that to its citizens?"

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