Release of man with Syria links 'wrong'

·3-min read

The federal government is demanding answers after the release from custody of a Victorian nurse who supported Chechen fighters on the frontline against the Assad regime in Syria.

Adam Brookman, 45, had pleaded guilty to performing acts in support or promotion of the commission of an offence under foreign incursion laws.

Brookman, a trained nurse who once worked as a paramedic for Ambulance Victoria, went to Syria in 2014, telling police he intended to use his healthcare experience to help the local Muslim community.

Justice Jane Dixon on Wednesday in Victoria's Supreme Court sentenced him to a total of six years and eight months in prison, with a non-parole period set for five years.

Brookman had already spent 2161 days - almost six years - in custody on remand, meaning he was eligible for parole. He was soon after released.

But federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews argues Brookman should have served the other nine months and his release was the result of a policy failure by the Victorian government.

"By midnight he was already released because he got discounted for being locked up during COVID. It is an absolutely appalling situation," she told Nine Network on Friday.

Ms Andrews said he should not have been freed due to the nature of his crimes.

Australian Federal Police will seek the minister's consent to apply for a control order on Brookman.

"I will be giving that consideration my absolute priority," Ms Andrews told AAP.

"I call on Victoria to urgently rectify this situation so that terrorist(s) and other serious offenders have to serve the time they have been sentenced.

"The community rightly expects better than this."

Justice Dixon noted in her remarks: "In sentencing you ... I am mindful that you are not charged with a terrorism offence, and you should not be sentenced as if the charge you have pleaded guilty to, contains the elements of a terrorist offence".

"I agree that there is no evidence that the services you provided to the Chechen group(s) were specifically aimed at targeting civilians, or civilian infrastructure," she further told the court.

Australian authorities first became aware of Brookman's activities in Syria - which included providing medical supplies and performing reconnaissance for Chechen fighters - through a phone call his brother made to the national security hotline about photos that appeared to show him in a war zone.

The father of five initially provided medical services in the Aleppo area and later joined a Chechen group in Latakia.

He performed guard duty and weapons maintenance while also providing medical services before travelling on a reconnaissance mission with the group in July 2014.

That month Brookman, who speaks Arabic, posted on social media about attending frontline combat as an armed medic.

He mentioned a "hair-raising" experience transporting injured combatants in an ambulance during "night time assaults against bashars demons (sic)".

Brookman also posted a photo of his AK-47 rifle and a bag of medical supplies, with the caption: "Preparation is key even for a medic".

Later in July 2014, Brookman uploaded an image of his rifle and his stethoscope and said they were his "essentials".

His barrister Peter Morrissey SC on Wednesday said while supporting foreign fighters was against the law in Australia, Brookman's activities were very different to someone supporting a terror organisation.

Brookman's offending was tempered by the fact the Chechen group was fighting against Syria's "barbaric" Assad dictatorship.

"If the Chechens were seeking to resist Hezbollah taking over a town and punishing its inhabitants, that's different to him going somewhere with ISIS to massacre the entire population," Mr Morrissey said.

"You could do much worse than what he is proven to have done."

Brookman left Syria in mid-2015, using smugglers to travel to Turkey where he contacted Australian authorities and negotiated his arrest on his return to Australia.

He had been in custody since his return to Melbourne in July 2015.

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